RePlay's Monthly Chat with AMOA President John Pascaretti
[AMOA President John Pascaretti’s term in office ends at the Amusement Expo. Look for Hail to the Chief’s return as RePlay interviews new association topper Bobby Hogin.]
RePlay: Tell us about your recent experience visiting Capitol Hill along with AAMA leaders.
Pascaretti: We had a good trip. We didn’t really have a hot button issue. Our message was more about taxation and small business issues, including some clear path on depreciation and expense provisions, which were enhanced as a result of the stimulus but have fallen back to much lower levels.
The Congressional staffers we met with seemed to be pretty tuned in to our concerns, but they also made it clear that there isn’t likely going to be any big reform packages moving through any time soon due to the upcoming election.
The ability for a small business to expense a piece of equipment instead of depreciating over a longer period of time is all the more important as technology marches on, meaning equipment becomes obsolete fairly soon after it’s put to use.
We understand you met with officials from the U.S. Mint. What was on the agenda for that meeting?
Our meeting with the Mint was very interesting. We met with the officials who have to write the report on the coin revamp project. They seemed to know our industry pretty well, even mentioning companies like MEI and Coinco. They want to know what effect changing the material composition of the nation’s coinage will have on commerce. They are having follow meetings with the various stakeholder industries. I believe that AAMA EVP John Schultz will participate in that meeting. They are aware of the consequences of changing the metal content, including the considerable upgrade costs our industry would have to incur, and they have looked at what’s happened in Canada and the U.K., both of which have done something similar. They have to submit their report to Congress at the end of this year. We are probably not looking at anything happening for a number of years, if at all.
Where does AMOA stand on the creation of a new dollar coin and the elimination of the dollar bill?
I don’t think we have a clear position on the elimination of the dollar bill and the creation of a new dollar coin. We sent out a survey more than a year ago, and the results reflected mixed views by members. A slim majority said they were opposed to a new coin and elimination of the dollar bill. But I’m not sure the sampling was large enough to really be significant. We may have to look at that again.
We are seeing so much more cashless technology, mobile payments, etc. so that’s going to change the calculus. We do less and less with coins. Operators are handling a lot more bills. I’m just not sure where and when it’s all going to go. Internet jukeboxes are taking credits cards and mobile payments, and we are hearing that the mobile payments are more than either on-site credit card swipes or coins. But bills are still predominant at this point.
This issue will be given out at the Amusement Expo. What’s the latest in the run up to the convention?
The show came together very well. We’ve met our budget. I hear good things from the IAAPA event. Over 100 people signed up for our seminars. Booth sales are progressing really well. There are more than 25 new companies exhibiting at the show. It’s all looking good.
How would you assess the state of the association?
The association is financially sound. On membership, we are holding our own. We are in the midst of the membership drive, and we are on target to be about where we were last year. I think attrition has stopped, at least for now. Our staff is really top notch. Jack Kelleher (association EVP) and his team run a tight ship. They make things work. I don’t know how I would have been able to hold this position without their assistance. Jack is tireless. He lives, eats and breathes this industry as much as any of us who are engaged in the trade. There’s nothing he will not do. The staff really makes this job do-able for those of us in the leadership.
What do you count as the association’s major achievements over the past year?
It wasn’t just the work of our association, but I think changing the structure of the expo represents the biggest move of the past year. I also think the reinstatement of our state association incentive program was a big deal. We have already gotten a lot of positive feedback from that effort. The alignment between AMOA and the state associations must continue to grow stronger. We are aware that many of those organizations are run on meager resources. We have the ability to help those groups. We believe the stronger our state associations are, the stronger our industry and AMOA will be as well.
Conversely, what were the biggest hurdles or challenges you faced this year?
Every year, we have to earn our keep with our members. Part of our effort with state associations derives from our effort at beefing up membership. We are also trying to stay relevant with our various events and educational offerings. We have a lot to offer to the operator if they choose to take it. For example, the educational program at Expo is phenomenal. There’s something for everybody.
I had a call from an operator today. He was complaining about a location signing up for a music video service instead of utilizing a jukebox. It’s important for operators to come to the trade show, Road Scholar and state association meetings so they can figure out how to stay competitive in this industry. Operators need to learn about how to replace lost revenue as a result of the attrition in the bar business and the loss of the countertop business.
ATMs have been one solution, and we have other subjects on the agenda at the upcoming expo. There are so many learning opportunities available through AMOA. But sitting in your office wringing your hands is not a good strategy for overcoming the challenges we face. AMOA’s role is to offer a venue for operators looking to find solutions to the challenges of our day.
Does the jukebox license discount for AMOA still constitute a significant member benefit?
We have known and recognized for a long time that jukebox licensing would diminish in importance. At one point, that discount was a very valuable benefit.
That benefit is still there, but obviously it doesn’t have as much appeal. Although we still haven’t reached the deadline, so far we have seen about 1,232 jukeboxes utilizing the AMOA discount out of about 2,000 total licensed units. Another of our biggest challenges is finding what can we do to replace a member benefit that was that good. The answer may well be to replace it with many different benefits.
What’s the future for AMOA?
I don’t know that I see any big changes in the near future. The association will continue to evolve and adapt, as it has a history of doing. Our core membership is strong. Our leadership is strong. Our finances are strong. As long as there is an industry, there will be an AMOA. I tried to stress that as I went around to the state association meetings.
I don’t know if the average member knows how much work goes into the association, which in turn makes things better for the entire industry. Among board members, the commitment to the industry is impressive. It’s been that way pretty much throughout the history of the association. That’s what makes things tick.
We need more operators to get out of their comfort zone and get involved with the association’s effort. We are all fighting the same sort of issues.
Any final thoughts?
It’s been a wonderful year. So many people have welcomed me into their home communities. They have all been so very gracious. I know the end of this term is going to be emotional for me.
John Pascaretti is a Michigan coin-op distributor who has been in the industry since the mid 1970s. He began helping a cousin run a route, eventually running his own, and has since moved into distribution, beginning with Rowe and eventually opening up his own Pascaretti Enterprises in Warren and Grand Rapids.
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