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American Amusement Machine Association Adopts Fair Play Pledge: Any Player Can Win With Right Application Of Skill

Posted On: 5/5/2017

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TAGS: AAMA Fair Play Pledge, Chris Felix, Pete Gustafson, Rick Kirby, David Cohen, American Amusement Machine Association, arcade game policy, coin-op news, claw vending machine, redemption amusement game, rigged arcade games

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL -- After three years of due diligence, the American Amusement Machine Association has rolled out the Fair Play Pledge, a contract that every AAMA member must sign to guarantee that any game they sell or operate in the United States will give the player a fair chance of winning. Effective immediately, signing the pledge is a requirement for AAMA membership. "This is a good day for AAMA," said the association's executive vice-president Pete Gustafson, who announced the FPP on May 4, along with AAMA president Chris Felix (Crane Payment Innovations) and the association's government relations co-chairs Rick Kirby (Betson Enterprises) and David Cohen (Firestone Financial).

"We want to emphasize that we are not in the business of rigging our games," the AAMA officials said.

The Fair Play Pledge was developed to address legislative threats regulating amusement machines and respond to negative media coverage portraying the amusement industry as "rigged." A major event triggering the initiative occurred in 2013 in California, where state legislators proposed punitive regulations governing amusement games. Two years later, articles and videos depicting how claw machines can be programmed to determine the win-lose ratio began to populate the Internet. In July 2016, a report on the Today Show revealed how operators can adjust claw strength to affect the outcome of a crane game.

"So we needed a defensible position," Cohen said. "Our industry is about family entertainment. We are going to make sure that we manufacture, distribute and operate games that people can win at, with skill."

The FPP embodies only three criteria to govern the design and operation of arcade games. They are, in AAMA's exact wording:

» An opportunity exists that allows for players to win by the application of skill such that the player will have sufficient time to identify, recognize and react with every game play.

» A player can improve with practice and experience.

» The player's input controls the outcome of the game.

That said, a player using the right technique can win, all the time, at any game that is designed and operated under those criteria. "Drafting these principles was the easy part," Gustafson said. "The difficult part was developing an enforcement protocol."

AAMA will appoint an FPP Compliance Committee at its annual meeting in October. This committee will oversee claims of noncompliance, which must be submitted in writing. The committee is responsible for reviewing evidence of noncompliance and can recommend that a questionable game be tested by an independent lab, whose test conclusions will be binding. Companies alleged to be noncompliant under these processes will be able to appeal the decision to AAMA's board of directors. The association is required to fund any testing; but if a company is found to be noncompliant, it agrees to pay AAMA for the full testing cost.

Enforcement of the Fair Play Pledge will begin after AAMA's annual meeting in 2018, giving members about 18 months to phase out or update noncompliant equipment. The program was created as a self-policing mechanism, or code of conduct, for AAMA members. Betson's Kirby, a past-president of AAMA, has been the biggest advocate for self-regulation. "We're an industry that often thinks about immediate satisfaction and worries about the consequences later. We need to police ourselves," he warned the industry four years ago. | SEE STORY

The FPP is the response to Kirby's warning. "There's been no pushback from the game factories, and the operators I have spoken to about this initiative say there's nothing better than customers winning prizes," he said.

Chris Felix, American Amusement Machine Association
Chris Felix

While the Fair Play Pledge is limited to AAMA's membership, its potential to alter the direction of the amusement industry is unlimited. Its members include leading game manufacturers and some of the largest operators of amusement routes and family entertainment centers. For AAMA president Chris Felix, who is the face of the amusement industry, the FPP initiative is one of the association's greatest achievements. "It sends a message to the public that our members' games are fair, and that everyone can win with the right application of skill. This is the direction we're going in."

Founded in 1981, AAMA is an international nonprofit trade organization representing manufacturers, distributors and parts suppliers involved in the coin-operated amusement industry. Recently, the association has added several large operators to its ranks. AAMA is the first trade organization in the amusement industry to impose a policy for the regulation of skill games.

See Pete Gustafson's official letter to AAMA's membership.