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Germany's 2013 IMA Is Cancelled Due To Ambiguity Of Arcade Gaming Laws

Posted On: 6/22/2012

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DÜSSELDORF, Germany -- Germany's 2013 IMA, originally scheduled for Jan. 18-21 at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Center, has been canceled. The long-running trade fair for amusement and vending equipment will return in January 2014.

The show's organizer, Reed Exhibitions Deutschland GmbH, and its main sponsor, the German amusement and vending industry association, or VDAI (Verband der Deutschen Automatenindustrie), said the decision to skip a year was prompted by Germany's uncertain political environment for the gaming and amusement industry at federal and local levels. The decision to cancel the show was approved on June 14 by VDAI's general assembly.

German federal law, which decrees stakes, prize values, machine permits and other aspects of the gaming industry, will be revised later this year. The game ordinance, known as the Spielverordnung, regulates gambling equipment in both arcades and bars; the German Ministry of Trade and Commerce is the authority over the ordinance. While new regulations will likely address sports betting and Internet gaming, small-stakes gaming machines, or AWPs (amusement with prizes), are expected to factor in.

But the real concern lies with the policies of Germany's 16 federal states. Alongside the federal gaming ordinance, Germany's states have their own regulations for gaming machines, and their laws apply to the country's 6,000 arcades that provide small-stakes gaming. While the federal government says how many machines are permitted and what the machines can do, the states decide how many licenses will be issued and other operational aspects. Some German states have introduced laws reducing the amount of money punters could legally win, dictating mandatory closing times and banning gambling arcades from advertising on their facades or in their foyers, among other restrictions creating hardships for operators.

As a result, manufacturers represented by the VDAI are expecting their production output to drop on an unprecedented scale, the association reported. And the entire German gaming and amusement machine industry, which is now comprised of an estimated 70,000 employees and another 35,000 indirect workers, could see a possible 50% employment loss.

VDAI said that the federal states want to reduce commercial gaming with prizes so it can "secure and expand [their] gambling monopolies." The association added that numerous lawsuits against the gaming arcade laws are pending in constitutional and administrative courts in the states of Berlin and Bremen, and more suits are expected to be filed in other states.

Germany's 16 federal subdivisions, known as Länder or Bundesländer, are expected to sign an interstate treaty on July 1 that provides an overview of their positions on gaming machines and arcades.

Last January's IMA drew 9,512 visitors, a 7.5% increase over 2011's attendance figures, according to the show's organizers. VDAI described the atmosphere of the 2012 gathering as a "mixed picture"; attendance was up, but buyers remained cautious due to ambiguity in the small-stakes AWP gaming sector. | SEE REPORT

Intergame editor David Snook wrote on his blog, " pull the plug on the show may appear to be a little extreme." SEE KNEE-JERK GERMANY

Download VDAI's official IMA press announcement here: