BALTIMORE -- The Maryland Amusement and Music Operators Association has scheduled its 2011 Spring Into Summer Bash for Tuesday, May 24, at the Bay Café - Baltimore's Best Beach.
The gala event will afford industry members the opportunity to exchange ideas in a relaxed atmosphere, while raising funds for MAMOA's ongoing government-relations efforts at the state and municipal levels. It will begin at 6 p.m. and wind down around 9 p.m.
A highlight of the festivities will be the presentation of a meritorious service award to MAMOA legislative counsel Kevin O'Keeffe, to recognize his outstanding representation of the association and the industry at all levels of government.
Tickets for the fête are $60 a person. Partygoers will enjoy games, music, food, fun and an open bar.
The association points out that participation in the Spring Into Summer Bash not only will be entertaining and informative, but also will support Maryland's amusement and music operators by helping to underwrite government relations programs.
One of the most valuable of these initiatives is the popular Legislative Reception, held at the historic Calvert Inn in Annapolis for the past three years. MAMOA president Larry Bershstein of Capitol Amusement Co. (Laurel, MD) explained that the association installs a variety of coin-operated amusement devices and jukeboxes, then hosts an open bar and buffet to which state (and recently, municipal) officials are invited. The response has been very gratifying, Bershstein reported.
Information on the Spring Into Summer Bash may be had from MAMOA by calling (301) 762-8585, or emailing to email@example.com.
MAMOA AT A GLANCE
A relatively new state association, MOMOA was established by a coalition of Maryland operators and distributors in early 2008 to defend the legitimate redemption market. A statewide ban on previously legal electronic bingo machines took effect on July 1, 2008, and at the same time some lawmakers were targeting gray-area games throughout the state. The new Maryland association sought to educate lawmakers about the industry to prevent prize-vending equipment from becoming illegal in any antigambling legislation. Additionally, Maryland levies some of the heaviest taxes and fees on amusement equipment.
"Bill writers intent on stopping the proliferation of electronic gaming machines rapidly multiplying in southern Maryland had originally included all games of chance and skill," Bershtein said. "An informal group that later became the Maryland Amusement and Music Operators Association formed and successfully had the bill changed to accomplish only what the legislators wanted to accomplish, and not the complete outlawing of the amusement industry in the state."
Soon after, the budding MOMA successfully challenged a proposed increase on the limit for the state's admissions and amusement tax. "In Maryland, the state sets the maximum limit jurisdictions can charge in the form of a gross receipts tax," Bershtein explained. "Each of the 192 jurisdictions, counties and municipalities can charge from 0% to 10%, and the proposal would have increased the maximum to 16%. This would have almost been a de facto killing off of our businesses had this not been averted by the almost officially formed association."
Also in 2008, soon after the official formation of MAMOA, the state Comptroller of the Treasury, Peter Franchot, revealed an aggressive enforcement program targeting gray-area and video poker games, primarily in Baltimore and Baltimore County. Enforcement was aggressive enough to include such amusement games running on Megatouch countertops, Bershtein said.
"MAMOA, now official, used this as an opportunity to build strong and continuing ties with the comptroller's office," the association president said. "All the Megatouches went back to their respective bartops, and the comptroller's office learned that MAMOA was watching to make sure they did not overreach."
A crisis inspires involvement and member growth, Bershtein noted, and this gave MAMOA the money it needed to host its first legislative day in Annapolis during the 2009 session. "After a day of one-on-one meetings, legislators, staff and other officials were invited to a reception just across the street from the Maryland State House featuring games for entertainment," he said. "This year was our third reception, and we are now solidly on the calendar as one of the most fun, and different, events for legislators."
But there's a downside to success, admits Bershtein, who like other association and industry leaders has discovered that when there are no immediate crises to fight, members drift away. "Waning interest combined with a poor economic environment has made it difficult to raise the funds needed to continue, but we are managing as best we can," he said.