Joseph Levitan Dies At 86; Russian Immigrant Founded JVL And CashCode

Posted On: 9/26/2016

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TAGS: Joseph Levitan, Joseph Levitan obituary, JVL Labs, CashCode, Val Levitan, Pac-Man, JVL touchscreen games

Joseph Levitan, JVL Labs MARKHAM, ON -- Joseph Levitan, who founded JVL and CashCode, died on Sept. 23. He was 86.

Levitan, who was born in Minsk, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Belarus, emigrated to Canada when he was an adult. He began his industry career repairing Pac-Mans and other arcade games in the early 1980s, and thereafter he became an amusement machine operator. With his son Val, he decided to hang up his keys and make his own videogames. They founded JVL Corp., now JVL Labs, in 1984.

JVL was an innovator of coin-op touchscreen videogames for more than two decades. In 1995, it introduced the Concorde touch system that shipped with 13 titles. The gaming package quickly gained the attention of operators in the U.S. and Canada. JVL was the first developer to apply CD-ROM and flash memory technologies to coin-op systems, and by 2003 it had settled on flash, which was able to store more games and run them optimally.

In 2001, JVL offered more than 80 casual games for its system. By 2004, it was marketing three machines -- the Eclipse, Retro and Vortex -- and published the hit games Gone Fishing and Done Drinking, making it a leading player in the bar-game space.

As a separate venture, in the early 1990s, the Levitans cofounded CashCode Co. Inc., a Canadian company specializing in banknote validation. At its peak, CashCode's annual sales topped $60 million. It had 350 employees, an international sales network spanning 17 countries and 35 patents. In 2006, vending machine and payment system giant Crane Co. acquired CashCode for $86 million.

That same year, JVL lost a patent infringement case against U.S. touchscreen amusement giant Merit Industries. The two-year-long legal battle, which saddled JVL with $15 million in legal fees, ended with a $4.5 million judgment against JVL. The jury trial took place in Merit's home state of Pennsylvania.

Outside the halls of justice, the coin-op touchscreen videogame market was about to undergo dramatic changes. Smartphones and tablets would soon eclipse the ubiquitous bartop videogames. By 2008, JVL was transitioning its focus to casinos. What was left of Merit Industries, operating under the Megatouch brand owned by AMI Entertainment, shut down at the end of 2013.

Today, JVL Labs under the stewardship of Val Levitan is a certified supplier of gaming products in Colombia, Italy, Peru and Spain.

"Joseph was a Titan of a man in life and in business," Val said. "I lost an unbelievable father, a partner and a 'windshield.'"