In this month’s issue, we report on the latest evolution of a company that has become synonymous with the amusement machine industry, H. Betti Industries, on the event of the company’s 80th anniversary. We have published multiple anniversaries of the Betti dynasty through the years, and in preparing to write this year’s update, I had the pleasure of working my way through several of those histories. The experience proved to be enlightening.
Betson is a dominant player in the amusement market, no doubt. What’s interesting to note is how the company got there, and how it has remained on top through successive decades. Founder Humbert Betti got his start in the food service industry, selling ice cream in the United Kingdom and then later opened a restaurant and bar in Manhattan. But he spotted a growth trend when he placed his first jukebox, following that opportunity by building out an impressive route of more than 7,000 pieces in New York and New Jersey.
The patriarch ultimately retired to Italy, leaving the company under the leadership of his son Bert Betti. But Humbert Betti promptly started exporting slate for pool tables back to the U.S., sowing the seed that was to become the sizeable supply house Imperial International. When the time was right, the company jumped into game distribution, starting with pool tables and growing from there. By the time the new “Betson” hit its stride as a distributor in the late 1970s, the amusement game boom was underway.
In later years, they teamed up with suppliers to offer proprietary product including Elaut cranes and more recently video games from Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix. In the last half decade, the company has embraced the rise of the FEC, developing expertise in providing games and other services to the burgeoning family fun center industry.
“The business began to morph around 2006, and the FEC really boomed after the big bust, the Financial Crisis of 2008, because a lot of real estate became affordable and the owners of the buildings, many of them former big box stores, were looking for ways to exploit or capitalize on their property,” explained today’s H. Betti Chairman Peter Betti. “The coin-operated experience is viewed as being part of a broader entertainment experience. You can’t have a freestanding arcade these days. The revenues don’t really justify it.”
The flexibility required to make these necessary adjustments is one of the keys to the firm’s success over eight decades. Landscapes change, trends come and go and the fundamentals of a marketplace inevitably shift over time. Success in one era, using one particular mode of doing business, is no guarantee of ongoing success as things change over time. In fact, success in one era can hinder the ability of a business to change and adapt. It can be hard for one that did well in the past to abandon that successful formula in the future.
That’s all the more reason to sing the praises of H. Betti Industries, which despite its substantial size and past successes, has remained nimble enough to respond quickly to a changed world. So we tip our hat in salute. Happy anniversary.
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