Gary Brewer of Brewer Amusement Co. (McMinnville, TN) assumed the leadership of the Amusement and Music Operators Association on Sept. 26. As is traditional, his term as president began at the close of the AMOA International Expo.
It turned out to be a historic moment: Two days before, association leaders had announced that this year’s show would be the final AMOA Expo. Beginning next year, AMOA said it will work with the American Amusement Machine Association to support a single combined show. The first edition of that event is set for March 10-12, 2010, in Las Vegas.
VT's music and games editor Marcus Webb caught up with Brewer this week for a discussion about plans for the new show. Also covered in the interview were AMOA finances, the health of the industry overall in 2009 and prospects for operator-run video lottery in Illinois.
VENDING TIMES: You have been president of AMOA for more than six weeks now. How’s it going?
Gary Brewer: With the new show being top priority, there is definitely a buzz in our association and our industry as we work with our new partners at the American Amusement Machine Association to have an exciting spring event. We have accomplished a lot in the last several weeks and I don’t see how things could be going any better. I expected a lot of transitional work as we begin to merge the AMOA International Expo and AAMA’s Amusement Showcase International into the New Show for spring 2010 and the combined effort is proving to be very productive.
Fortunately we have many good people from both associations who are helping tackle these challenges. There is still plenty left to do. We have formed some good committees; they are meeting weekly and working hard to put together agendas that are timeline-based.
What was the key turning point in the decision to create a new trade show?
In order for us to grow our industry, it is understandable that we need all parties pulling together. In recent years our national trade shows have limited themselves to a similar lineup of manufacturers, but we believe that creating a combined show will let us broaden the range of exhibitors that participate. We anticipate new exhibitors and new revenue opportunities at the New Show.
AMOA and AAMA decided to hold the "New Show" in the spring, despite the fact that AMOA leaders have argued strenuously for several years that the tradition of a fall show must be preserved. In reversing this stance, how important was the fact that IAAPA said it would hold its fall trade show in Las Vegas every other year, starting this year?
There used to be a fall introduction of new products in the amusements industry, but that business model has changed for the manufacturers ... as has almost every aspect of our industry. With this in mind, we understood that the logic of timing had also changed, therefore we decided our best opportunities to blanket the market are in the spring.
Is “The New Show” a temporary name?
The new event in 2010 will be the AAMA/AMOA Amusement Expo. The message is that there is a combined effort of both associations to improve our industry. The marketing committee will work to determine the need of any change going forward.
You said AMOA and AAMA decided it would be best to embrace “a combined approach, including a combined show.” Does that mean some thought is being given to merging the associations themselves?
Not at this time, not at all. There is so much work to do to get the New Show going that an association merger is not even on the radar at this moment. Our top priority and goal is to lay the foundation for the best spring show that we can possibly have.
Leisure Entertainment Trade Shows (LETS) is the umbrella organization through which AMOA co-owns Fun Expo in partnership with AAMA and IAAPA. But the LETS agreement expires at the end of 2010. What is the future for LETS?
We are happy to have Fun Expo co-mingle with us in 2010. Beyond the 2010 show, I have no idea, as there are many possible scenarios and opportunities for our three organizations. Discussions regarding their future will be on the calendar for consideration next year, right after the March show.
What do you think will be the long-term impact of a combined show?
I am excited about the future of our industry, due to the combined show. I see long-term growth opportunities for everyone involved. The attitude and the effort is in place and I am confident that this decision has provided an over-all industry boost.
Last year (2008) was a tough year for the industry, with many operators reporting sharp declines in revenues. How has 2009 been in comparison -- better, worse, or about the same?
I don’t know about the revenue, but I do know that everyone in our industry is working very hard and is optimistic that their efforts will be rewarded.
Did we hear correctly that AMOA lost money this year?
Our membership revenue exceeded our budgeted amount. That gives us confidence that members continue to find value in our association programs and benefits. Our show was smaller, but was profitable. We will soon have final figures for show revenues, and then review our association budget for the year.
Is AMOA looking for ways to reduce its operational budget?
AMOA is always looking at ways to be more efficient and cost-effective. It is the time of the year when our budget committee meets and reviews the needs of our association for the coming year. Every line item will be reviewed as part of this annual process -- and yes, we will be looking at any and all ways to save money.
How is your program coming along to introduce collective buying as an AMOA member benefit?
With the proper alignment and guidelines, I think there is merit in a program of which the purpose is to offer financial incentives, in regard to rewarding our members for purchases, but also promotes sales to the manufacturing sector. I am looking for a win-win for all parties.
You just attended a meeting of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, which is gearing up for legalized operator-run video lottery next year. How are things looking for VLT in Illinois?
I am proud of the dedication and 20 years of persistence of many operators to accomplish the opportunity of operator-run VLT gaming. There is still some work to be done before implementation, but I am confident that the state association is prepared for the task.
Are ICMOA members feeling discouraged or confident at this point?
The operators in Illinois are confident that most jurisdictions will opt in and that they will have a healthy video lottery market next year. This is a big change and a serious financial commitment for operators that choose to participate. The landscape of traditional operating will be altered, but I hope that all aspects of coin-op will benefit from this new opportunity.
Would a successful operator-run VLT market in Illinois have positive repercussions for operators in other states?
Without a doubt, it will. There are other states that are looking for similar programs and an example of a successful operator program would definitely be positive for our industry.
What does it mean for Ohio operators that voters there have just passed a statewide referendum to allow casinos for the first time?
Ohio operators probably feel as if they now have more competition for the adult entertainment and recreational dollar. Our industry has never been limited to adult coin-op customers, therefore I expect the Ohio market to shift and focus on other opportunities.
Thank you, Gary. Best of luck as you head to the IAAPA show.