AAMA's 2016 Gala Hosts Larger Crowd, Honors John Schultz

Posted On: 10/19/2016

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TAGS: American Amusement Machine Association, AAMA 2016 Gala, Pheasant Run Resort, Peter Gustafson, John Schultz, Chris Felix, Crane Payment Innovations, Dave & Busters, Kevin Bachus, coin-op news, Amusement Expo International, Allen Weisberg, photo booth, Don Marshall

ST. CHARLES, IL -- The American Amusement Machine Association staged its annual membership meeting and Gala, which combines social events and a sneak-peek showcase of new amusement equipment in development. The association, which historically scheduled its annual meetings for early August, held its 2016 conference from Sept. 12 to 16. Additionally, AAMA moved the venue from the Hilton in Lisle, IL, to the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL, which had more rooms to accommodate the growing number of Gala participants.

This year marked several notable transitions for the association. It was the first annual meeting to be officiated by AAMA's new executive vice-president. Peter Gustafson, a 36-year amusement industry veteran, began his post as the top senior staff official on June 1. He succeeds John Schultz, who is AAMA's Lifetime Achievement Award winner, an accomplishment that was honored at a dinner ceremony on Sept. 15. And this year's meeting marked the midpoint of Chris Felix's two-year term as the association's president, an elected post. Felix is the national amusement OEM sales manager of Crane Payment Innovations.

Felix said this year's was the best AAMA conference he's observed during his seven years as a volunteer for the nonprofit association. A record 214 people attended, he reported. Twenty-four companies sponsored and exhibited at the Gala, held on the evening of Sept. 15. Some 13 seminars were held over a two-day period; they included 11 manufacturer presentations, an introduction to AAMA's new membership rewards program and a keynote address by Dave & Buster's game strategist Kevin Bachus.

The 11 presenting manufacturers were PayRange, Benchmark Games, Bay Tek Games, Sega and Beatselecta, along with Universal Space Video, Stern Pinball Inc., Andamiro USA, Baron Games, Bandai Namco and Apple Industries.

During the Gala's government-relations luncheon, Dentons lobbyist John Russell discussed two issues of concern to the association and amusement industry at large.

Russell warned that the movement to change the metal content of the quarter is regaining strength in Washington. Two years ago, AAMA led a campaign to thwart altering existing coinage properties. The Coin Modernization, Oversight and Continuity Act of 2010 -- which gives the Treasury Secretary authority to develop alternative coinage materials and increases congressional oversight over coin production -- has some members of Congress calling for more research. In its 2014 report to Congress on alternative metals for circulating coins, the U.S. Mint recommended no change to their composition. This year, however, the Government Accountability Office will be submitting its own coin report to Congress; speculation has it that the Mint has been investigating "seamless technology" to change the quarter's composition while maintaining the same EMS characteristics of current coin. If this is possible, new and old quarters could be validated by existing coin mechanisms.

Russell also reviewed a U.S. Department of Justice initiative that is inadvertently targeting ATM processors and operators. As a result of Operation Choke Point, several amusement and vending operators who run ATMs have been notified by their banks of imminent account closures. Letters from banks cite a risk assessment review as the reason. Operation Choke Point, introduced in 2013, investigates banks doing business with payment processors, payday lenders and other financial companies believed to be at higher risk for fraud. Russell said that Dentons and AAMA are working with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) to direct the DOJ not to target lawful ATM operators.

Today, AAMA possesses a robust government affairs agenda that was reshaped in 2009. That year, the association recruited John Schultz as its executive vice-president. Schultz reinvigorated AAMA's membership programs and helped to elevate the amusement industry's voice in Washington. In what's widely considered one of his greatest feats, Schultz spearheaded the merger of AAMA's former tradeshow, the Amusement Showcase International, and the Amusement and Music Operators Association's show into the new Amusement Expo International, held annually in the spring.

AAMA's awards dinner recognizing Schultz's lifetime achievement packed the ballroom at the Pheasant Run Resort.

Schultz's career spans 45 years in vending and amusements. He started in office coffee service, an emerging service concept at the time, and later managed several vending operations. He eventually became president of California's Weymouth Distributing, where he learned about amusements. Between 1998 and 2008, the industry veteran was president of Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corp., the legendary jukebox company. Schultz retired in May after seven years with AAMA.

"John's wide range of senior leadership experience made him the perfect choice for the executive vice-president of the AAMA in 2009," said AAMA president Chris Felix. "Coincidentally, my time on the AAMA board of directors started the same year. Looking to get more involved with the association, John served as an accomplished mentor to me during my first true experiences within an association. John's passion for bringing groups together played an instrumental role during the transition from two industry shows annually into the single Amusement Expo. His ability to negotiate a solution resulted in what was best for AAMA, AMOA and the industry as a whole."

Felix and Gustafson called Schultz to the podium. "It's been a great run," he said. "The industry is about hardworking people. I'm proud of AAMA's government-relations initiative -- it's critical to protect this industry from harmful legislation."

The Lifetime Achievement Award is traditionally presented during the opening ceremony of Amusement Expo, along with other AAMA service awards. In 2014, the association began honoring the winner during its Gala dinner. Betson's Rick Kirby (2014) and Stern Pinball Inc.'s Gary Stern (2015) were the previous honorees. Ads sold in souvenir journals honoring these lifetime achievers have raised more than $100,000 for the association's charity endeavors.

AAMA presented two additional accolades during the Gala. This year's Joe Robbins Award was bestowed on photobooth entrepreneur Allen Weisberg of Apple Industries Inc. (Greenvale, NY). This award is AAMA's highest honor, named after the industry pioneer who played a leading role in forming the association in 1981. AAMA's Shining Star Award went to creative prodigy Don Marshall of Marshall Productions LLC (Chicago). The Shining Star recognizes an AAMA member's tireless service to the association.

John Schultz, Lifetime Achievement Award
JOHN SCHULTZ: AAMA executive vice-president Pete Gustafson (l.) and president Chris Felix (r.) congratulate John Schultz who accepts the association's Lifetime Achievement Award. Schultz served seven years as the association's EVP.

AAMA Joe Robbins Award, Apple Industries, Allen Weisberg
ALLEN WEISBERG: AAMA's Chris Felix (l.) and Pete Gustafson (r.) present Joe Robbins Award, the association's highest honor, to Apple Industries' Allen Weisberg. Felix praised Weisberg as an innovator in manufacturing and operations.

Don Marshall, AAMA Shining Star Award
DON MARSHALL: AAMA team members Ashley Davis (l.), Tina Schwartz and Pete Gustafson (r.) bestow Shining Star Award on Marshall Production's Don Marshall. Marshall's creative contributions have elevated the industry's image.