Members from AAMA and AMOA, with support from their legal counsel from Dentons, descended on Washington, D.C., from April 16-18 to continue fighting for the industry’s best interests. The contingent focused on multiple issues while visiting 13 Congressional offices, and also met with Bank of America officials in an attempt to combat unwarranted account closures that have continued since Operation Choke Point was rescinded by the Department of Justice last year. Additionally, some members stayed an extra day to hold a meeting with the Office of the Comptroller of Currency on the issue as well. Dentons’ Margeaux Plaisted and John Russell led the two groups.
“We had some very good visits this trip; we hit things from multiple angles,” said Lori Schneider, AMOA EVP. “We decided we wanted to meet with one of the larger banks to have a discussion on what’s happening with some of our members’ account closures, we wanted to make them aware of what we do, and our national impact.”
Multiple AMOA members, as well as others in cash-heavy businesses, have faced unjust account closures, even since the assumed culprit, Operation Choke Point, was pulled back by the DOJ. As these closures have continued to plague cash businesses, AMOA and AAMA both focused a lot of their energy on finding a solution.
According to Schneider, since Choke Point was rescinded last year, many of the Congressional staffers they met with assumed the problem had passed, so informing them that their constituents were still struggling was an immediate benefit of the trip.
“For them to just understand us as an industry, and hear what our operators do and how their businesses can be bettered, that’s a win,” Schneider said. “If we can differentiate ourselves from other cash businesses, that’s another positive I can imagine. Moving forward, we’ll be visiting with other large banks as well.”
Beyond Choke Point
Another issue the groups focused on was protecting temporary worker visas, which allow many FECs, amusement parks and other seasonal attractions to fill out the summer months with good employees after they lose high school-and college-aged workers as they head back to school.
“If you look at the industry at large –– the Jersey shore, theme parks and the like –– their season is summer time,” said AAMA Exec VP Pete Gustafson. “Not only do a lot of high school and college kids not want to work these jobs, but those who do have to leave before the season ends. The unskilled labor force H2-B visas allow is critical to operations.
“Equally, H-1 visas are important,” Gustafson continued. “Our industry employs thousands of engineers, software designers and other skilled workers, and as we see a growth with technology like VR, these positions are even more integral.” Tariffs were also a focus of the lobbying efforts with many in the industry potentially affected because of the amount of redemption prizes, parts and games themselves that are made overseas, specifically in Asia. Gustafson said retaliatory tariffs could harm exporters as well, as many in the global industry are reliant upon American-made products and games of high quality.
Gustafson said they addressed concerns about violence in video games as well, noting that the amusement industry has the necessity of being “Mom-approved” and that the majority of our games are far from violent.
Overall, the associations encourage a wider, grassroots movement from the industry, asking members to contact their state legislators or join their state association to help combat issues that could be affecting their businesses tomorrow.
“That’s how things change. When lawmakers hear directly from the constituents they represent, it’s much more powerful,” Schneider said.
On the AAMA side, members should contact Tina Schwartz (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Gustafson directly (email@example.com) to sign up for a D.C. trip. AMOA members should contact the AMOA office at 815-893-6010.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience,” Gustafson concluded. “It should be on everyone in our industry’s bucket list to make that trip once. You get to see how the sausage is made and understand that your voice matters. And having Dentons lead the way means we have the world’s largest law firm on our side, and people take us very seriously.”