A Final Push
LaFleur Talks About the Coming Expo & Reflects on His Presidency
Q: Before we get into a look at your term as AMOA President, how is the Amusement Expo shaping up?
A: It’s going to be great! AMOA and AAMA, along with show manager Brian Glasgow, have taken huge steps in creating an even better show experience for this year’s event. You’ve probably already noticed a fresh new look in Amusement Expo International’s promotion materials. We’ve also brought technology to the show website at www.amusement expo.org so that it now features an interactive exhibitor floorplan. Shortly we’ll be launching a first-ever Amusement Expo International app and attendees will receive a convenient pocket guide on-site to compliment the app. No more bulky show directory!
In addition to an expanded education program, we’ve added the rapidly-emerging virtual reality experience segment to the show. There will be a dedicated VR track on Education Day as well as a VR Pavilion on the trade show floor. We encourage everyone to take advantage of these and the many other opportunities at this year’s convention.
Last year’s buzz in Dallas will be “Back in Action in Vegas!” We couldn’t be more excited and expect strong attendance.
The show marks the end of your term as AMOA President, so as that day approaches, what do you see as having been the most obvious challenge to the industry this past year?
With a large sector of the operating community having diversified into financial services, it’s no doubt Operation Choke Point. Our Government Relations committee, led by chairperson Emily Dunn, has worked tirelessly behind the scenes, as well as on Capitol Hill to carry the message of onerous banking regulations as banks have been leveraging cash-intensive business out of their portfolios. Many banks forget they must serve the community in which they reside and that includes all customers! Thankfully, regulations like The Community Reinvestment Act have helped shed light on banking responsibilities within their charters.
Changing technology has challenged many industries. What impact has it placed on the amusement industry?
There are no surprises here. Our industry has, and will, continue to embrace the latest technologies. While some of our profit centers have shifted, other opportunities present themselves. Digital music remains strong, video games continue to engage our customers at high levels, darts offer online leagues and tournaments, self-redemption highlights increasing opportunity, and pinball is regaining market share. These are just some of the areas changing technology provides today’s operator the opportunity to effectively diversify his portfolio.
What technology do you see creating the greatest shift over the next three to five years?
Undoubtedly, it’s cashless. Many have witnessed a son or daughter heading out for the night leaving their wallet behind…no big deal. But leave their phone behind? They’ll turn back immediately to retrieve it.
Most technologies rapidly change the way things get done across industries, and cashless is no different in ours. Today’s digitally savvy player requires the cashless pay-to-play option. While the obvious benefit is increased revenue, the shift will most likely happen in the way we conduct business with cashless-enabled machines. This will include the reduction or even elimination of late-night, emergency service calls and a reduction in collection time, not to mention decreased theft liability and break-in repairs. These are just a few of the operational areas where the shift will be most noticeable.
Three years ago, AMOA began the process of working closely with experts within the industry to examine cashless technology. A result of this effort was the recently announced AMOA “cashless” member benefit with program partner Heartland Payment Systems. Heartland’s cashless payment solution brings increased opportunity and relevance as we see our customers continue to abandon cash payments when engaging with our machines.
How will AMOA continue to bring these challenges and opportunities to light?
Any challenge or opportunity cannot be embraced without education. AMOA has always fostered the development of educational programs and networking opportunities to make this possible. The AMOA State Council meeting in late January showcased legislative goals, as well as means to accomplish them. Our Education Committee will continue to create and offer opportunities for learning throughout the year. And, of course, AMOA will continue to protect its members by conducting legislative advocacy in Washington, D.C.
We are a sum of our parts and it is these strengths which continue to make the association what it is today. We have had years of consistently great executive staff, and our current team is no exception. We owe a debt of gratitude to the talent and effort they contribute. Our board is also made up of strong and dedicated industry veterans who make a real difference. The upcoming officers in AMOA will bring a wealth of experience and effort to the operator and industry community. When the Amusement Expo ends on March 1, I’ll be passing the presidential torch to fellow director and friend Jim Marsh, knowing AMOA is in great hands.
Rick LaFleur brings a wealth of experience to his term as AMOA president from running the I.F. LaFleur and Sons multi-generational operating company in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Seeing the job as an opportunity to give back, the genuine and likable LaFleur has a tremendous amount of optimism for the industry as it embraces opportunities and navigates challenges ahead.