Q&A with AAMA – July 2017

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Positive Light

Fair Play Pledge Garners Friendly Media Coverage; AAMA Gala 2017 Takes Shape

Q: How has the Fair Play Pledge been received both within the industry and from outside media?

[Editor’s note: The Fair Play Pledge is a commitment by AAMA members to build and operate skill games offering a fair chance for players to win. An exposé on cranes –– “Are they rigged?” – aired on the July 13, 2016,   and reignited AAMA’s desire to craft a “fair game” initiative. The association resumed those efforts and unveiled the FPP on May 4.]

Chris Felix

Chris Felix

A:  The Today Show story from July of 2016 didn’t exactly showcase our industry in a very flattering light. That was contrasted dramatically by a piece they did shortly after we announced the Fair Play Pledge in which host Matt Lauer referenced both AAMA and the FPP saying what the pledge is all about – if a player is good enough, she or he can win followed by a lighthearted and “fun” conversation by the entire cast about their favorite games including Skee-Ball, Whac-A-Mole and “those games that shoot water.” It was a completely different tone and treatment than what was said about us last July.

Quite a few members asked if we had intentionally sent them news of our pledge to NBC, but we hadn’t. Somewhere in the world of the Internet, they picked it up and ran with it. It was really nice to have the Industry shown in a more favorable light.

Right after the new segment ran, I received a few calls from members, and even from some on our board, asking if we’d sent that to them. The piece was entirely the Today Show’s own. That was pretty cool.

As for other mainstream media, we’ve been keeping an eye on where it was picked up. I spent some time on Google each day to see where it ran and chuckled because the Miami Herald was among those running the FPP story. It must have been a slow news day in Miami! The New York Post and some other pretty major news outlets picked it up, too.

Feedback from the industry has been mostly positive, especially among the family entertainment centers. They see it as a way to promote their environments as family friendly and really it’s one more thing they can be proud of at their centers. When you talk about street operators, most of them are members of AMOA which has their own robust Code of Ethics they can be very proud of.

We certainly welcome and encourage feedback from everybody. The FPP makes sense, but if you weren’t involved in the development process, you could end up making assumptions. Executive VP Pete Gustafson and I are having one-on-one conversations to help people understand what the real impact is and where we’re trying to go with it.

A great cross section of the industry was involved in the development of the FPP –– manufacturers, distributors, and FEC owners/operators. This ensured a great deal of transparency and enabled us to eliminate as many blind spots as possible. Like Don Marshall, one of the members of our board of directors, said, “All of us are smarter than any one of us.” That wisdom proved true again and again throughout the creation of the FPP.

As to what’s next? People can sign up now, although it takes effect during our 2018 annual meeting.

Meanwhile, we’re forming the Fair Play Pledge Committee and have identified a group of respected industry professionals to populate this extremely important group. This committee will consist of the current president of the AAMA (myself as of now), the executive VP as a non-voting member (Pete Gustafson) and two to four members of the AAMA board.

In other association news, plans are going well for our Annual Meeting and Gala. It’s scheduled for Monday, Oct. 2, through Friday, Oct. 6, at the Renais­­sance Chica­go North Shore in North­brook. It’s a 20-minute Uber ride from O’Hare and ex­tremely close to a variety of the best attractions Chicago has to offer. I’d encourage anyone coming to our meeting to stay a few extra days and take in more of this great city.

The schedule will be very similar to last year with a few notable changes. First, we’ve increased the number of sponsor presentation time slots from 13 to 21. There will be ample time to accommodate anyone who wants to share information about a new product or service with our engaged group of buyers.

Also, I’m extremely pleased to announce that en­tertainer Bill Gladwell will make a special guest appearance during Wednesday’s welcome dinner. Those who’ve seen Bill in the past will tell you his performance is like nothing they’ve ever seen before.

Additionally, our key­note speaker on Thurs­day will be Chuck E. Cheese’s Senior VP of Strategy Mahesh Sadaran­gani. He’s a key member of CEC’s leadership team and his presentation will likely be standing room only. We’ll have our annual gala award’s dinner following his presentation.

A few years ago, the AAMCF Board of Dir­ec­tors came up with a tremendous idea: We’ve got a room full of the latest and greatest games, we sponsor some incredible children’s charities including Chil­dren’s Miracle Net­work and K.E.E.N (Kid’s Enjoy Exercise Now), so can we let these kids be the first consumers to actually see and play these games?

AAMCF asked our members and the answer they received was a resounding “yes!” So on Friday morning, the day after the industry gala, our manufacturer and local distributor members generously agreed to leave the games on site so literally bus loads of kids, their families and caregivers who might not be able to visit an FEC get a chance to really be a kid for a few hours. That Friday morning makes me feel better about being a part of this association than anything else we’re doing.

I look forward to going into this year’s gala knowing we’ve taken strategic and intentional steps to ensure we blow past the high expectations we set during last year’s event.

A real highlight for me this year will be the Gala Awards Dinner. We’ll be honoring David Cohen with our 2017 Life­time Achieve­ment Award. David’s done so much for the industry, association and many, many philanthropic organizations it’s hard to keep track. His selection for this recognition has been met with incredible support from the entire industry.

Shortly, we’ll be sending out information about how you can acknowledge David through the placement of an ad in a souvenir ad journal. All proceeds from the journal go directly to our charitable endeavors. It’s worth mentioning that in the three years since we started honoring our Lifetime Achieve­ment Award winners with the ad journal, we’ve raised more than $160,000. That speaks volumes to both the quality of the individuals we’ve selected for this distinction as well as the enormous generosity of our industry.

We’ll also be presenting the Joe Robbins Award,  named after one of AAMA’s founding members. This honor goes to an AAMA member in recognition of the outstanding contribution they’ve made to the association throughout their career.

Last but not least, we’ll be presenting AAMA’s Shining Star Award elected by our staff in recognition of what is often the “unseen” work a member has done on behalf of the association over the past year.

Personally, I am looking forward to the end of the second year of my term as president. I’ll be honest with you: It’s crazy to sit back and think it’s been almost two years already! When I look back at all we’ve accomplished and all the things that have happened in the past two years, it’s just wild. We have really done a lot and with Pete’s energy, there’s still so much we can do.

For example, the Amusement Expo board is working with show organizers at William T. Glasgow to bring new technology to the expo and to figure out how to get people to sign up earlier. We’re really working to improve the whole expo experience for both the exhibitors and attendees. I look forward to seeing that through to fruition as well. I think people will really like what we’re working on.

Association membership is growing nicely. We’re up since the Amusement Expo and I can attribute this directly to the conversations we’re having which are landing with the FEC owner/operator community as relevant and important to what they want, need and desire from a trade association.

My term is up in a few months and I can honestly say I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past two years. I can’t wait to see where we go to next. The future for AAMA and the entire industry looks bright indeed.


Chris Felix, National OEM Sales Manager for MEI Conlux/CPI (Crane Payment Innovations), worked for MEI prior to its acquisition by Crane. Felix, who was elected to his two-year term at the AAMA Annual Meeting and Gala in August, has been honored with the group’s President’s and Joe Robbins awards. A U.S. Navy veteran, he served as a Nuclear Reactor Operator aboard the USS Minneapolis St. Paul and the USS Greeneville submarines. When he’s not busy with work or association duties and travel, you might find Chris out training for a marathon.

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