Thursday was a big one for the folks organizing AAMA’s annual Gala, bringing both of the event’s keynote speakers to the floor and playing host to the event’s namesake dinner party and celebration of industry. The day kicked off with an economical talk from Howard Kahn, leader of Pivot Point, an investment firm that has found success in the amusement world. Kahn was followed by a litany of engaging and innovative sponsor presentations, including information on a new two-story VR arena from Creative Works/Hologate, new games from UNIS, Bay Tek and LAI, and updates on the future direction of other imperative amusement companies.
The day continued with the much anticipated briefing from industry lobbyist John Russell, who bravely dove into the quagmire of D.C. politics to give attendees an insider look at the goings-on of government. Russell emphasized that the AAMA (and its sister organization AMOA) had done an incredible job joining him and other Dentons reps on the Hill to advocate for the industry. However, with business-threatening issues such as Trump’s tariffs, the work must go on, and Russell called for new faces from across the industry to continue burning shoe leather with him. AAMA EVP Pete Gustafson called on industry members who have been affected by the recent tariffs to share their stories with either AMOA or AAMA.
Following lunch, the crew saw a few more sponsor presentations and then were treated to a raucous and inspiring talk from Ed Rensi. Rensi is a former CEO of McDonald’s USA and was integral to the founding of the Ronald McDonald House charity. He was quick to the punch, diving into what he saw as business success and challenging people in the room to work harder at innovating, even going as far to say that the games he’d seen presented looked far too boring and similar. He encouraged businesses in the industry to do more quality customer research.
“Pay no attention to what your customers say,” Rensi said. “Pay attention to what they do. Don’t confuse noise with demand, just because a lot of people say they’re gluten-free, doesn’t meant they are.”
Following the keynote, attendees broke off for a short break followed by the Gala dinner. During the dinner, which honored the lifetime achievements of Ralph Coppola, founder of ICE, attendees raised an additional $30,000+ for the American Amusement Machine Charitable Foundation. AAMCF head David Cohen announced that on top of that 30K, the group had raised a whopping $287,000 during their ad journal fundraiser this year.
Additionally, Joe Camarota was presented the Shining Star award, and industry long timer Don Marshall was recognized for his infallible service with the Joe Robbins award. The AAMCF presented four checks this year to KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now), the Ronald McDonald House, Camp Sunrise and the Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago. For more information and a sneak peak at the equipment showcased at the Gala, look for our full story in October’s RePlay.