LAS VEGAS - (posted March 29) Visitors offered wildly different perceptions of this year's Amusement Showcase International (March 25-27, Las Vegas Convention Center). "The best show in years," enthused Frank Seninsky of Alpha-Omega Amusements (East Brunswick, NJ). "There was lots of good product; the important people were here; what more could you ask for?"
Pat Lawlor of Lawlor Design Group (consultants to Stern Pinball Inc.) offered the opposite judgment. Lawlor's and Seninsky's contrasting views both found plenty of supporters. Some exhibitors judged ASI 2003 as "great." Other exhibitors -- sometimes located in the very next booth -- expressed disappointment. One thing, at least, is clear: today's industry professionals hold very different standards and expectations for what a trade show should be and do.
For the record, there was no single "hit of the show." But the biggest buyers at ASI 2003 (national chains such as Wal-Mart, Chuck E. Cheese, Dave & Buster's) pronounced themselves pleased with the new equipment offered. Undoubtedly there were high-quality entries in every category: video, redemption, music, table and sports games, attractions, and the rest. ASI also featured more plush and prizes than past shows, reflecting the ongoing transition to more and more redemption in arcades and more and more merchandisers on street routes.
Organizers William T. Glasgow and Co. provided encouraging attendance statistics, although their figures included pre-registration and it appears not everyone who pre-registered actually showed up. The company reported 4,689 registrants (including 2,713 buyers) through the first two days of the show. Both figures were up from last year, although it was generally acknowledged that aisle traffic looked lighter than 2002.
ASI 2003 was the U.S. industry's first wartime show in memory. The war appears to have reduced the number of visitors from Asia and Europe, but it had less impact on domestic attendance. News reports said mall traffic remained at par during the first weekend of Operation Iraqi Freedom and that Vegas occupancy rates stood at 95% during the week of ASI.
The show also inaugurated a controversial open-door policy for attendees of the simultaneous Nightclub & Bar Show. However, the hoped-for flood of bar owners failed to materialize. Organizers said roughly half of those counted as buyers entered the exhibit floor wearing NC&B badges. (By the way, at least one West Coast operator aggressively used the ASI crossover as an opportunity to promote his business to potential new locations. Bravo to Gary Spencer of California Coin in Paso Robles, CA.)
In sum, ASI 2003 took place in a unique and complex set of circumstances that made evaluation difficult. But we believe that ASI co-chairman Sal Mirando provided a fair and balanced assessment. "I think we're holding our ground," Mirando said. "The industry is still challenged, but the show is stable. We are promoting ASI more, liberalizing the attendance rules, so from the viewpoint of statistics and income we are staying even. In today's market, that's pretty good."