AAMA Co-Founder Joe Robbins in Hall


Joe Robbins, whose career in coin-op spanned more than 50 years, was one of the legacy honorees selected to the Amusement Industry Hall of Fame back in March. Perhaps most known as a co-founder of AAMA and an executive with Empire Distributing and Atari, his career also included stints at Bally Distributing, Kitkorp, Sunsoft, Sega and others.

Among many accomplishments was building Chicago distributor Empire into the largest distribution company in the country, leading to a buyout by Bally. But the achievement that Joe was probably most proud of was the founding of AAMA.

In the early 1980s, despite the existence of an operators’ association (AMOA) for decades, the idea of manufacturers actually getting organized and acting together for the good of the industry was an unheard-of longshot. But Joe saw the writing on the wall: with the rapid rise of video games came a powerful backlash from anti-video game zealots who blamed the machines for all the ills besetting teenagers, just as rock-n-roll was blamed for corrupting youth in the 1950s. It was a monumental undertaking but with charm, persuasion and aggressive cajoling, Joe was able to herd the manufacturers into a fledgling organization that gave the industry respectability and a seat at the table in Washington, D.C. and other capitals where banning video games was a real threat.

To this day, AAMA bestows a Joe Robbins Award each year for service to the industry. But his greatest legacy may be that one can have honesty and integrity and be a success in our business. Joe was known for keeping his word and, coupled with generosity and extending a helping hand to many associates and customers, that led to lifelong friendships that lasted until his death in 2006, just short of his 84th birthday.


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