Alpha-Omega Amusements – Celebrating 50 Years!
From Alpha to Omega
How a Single Pinball Machine Created One of the Biggest Names in Coin-Op
RePlay is always glad to share industry success stories, especially upon the celebration of a major milestone, and even more so when the honoree represents the best of our industry: leaders with integrity, passion and vision.
These are just a few of the words used by people in the industry to describe Alpha-Omega Amusements’ founder Frank Seninsky, as well as others on his team, led by Joe Camarota and Jerry Merola. Frank reached his 50th year in business in 2019 and is now boldly taking his group of companies into its second half century.
How It Began
Frank Seninsky started out in coin-op by placing a Gottlieb North Star pinball in his college fraternity house, Beta Theta Pi, at New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology. The year was 1969 and the 19-year-old sophomore bought that first machine for $25. It took in $150 in dimes during the first week.
“Within days, that game was put on two plays for a quarter, which cut down on the service calls,” Frank wrote in 1989. “Return on investment was averaging about three days! I knew this was the business for me.”
With his younger brother Richard, a high school student at the start, helping at night, the Seninsky boys began growing that single machine into a route. By the time Frank was a senior in college, they ran about 50 pins – mainly in frat houses at Rutgers University, Newark College of Engineering and at the Stevens Institute. After graduating and taking an engineering job in Newark, N.J., Frank expanded to some 30 college game rooms with Alpha-Omega – the business name taken in homage to the Greek fraternities where it all started.
From there, it was Jersey Shore arcades, then dozens more at locations throughout New Jersey, then at major amusement parks and family entertainment centers across the nation – and today, at all types of venues globally.
For 50 years now, the company has been all about changing with the times. One of their biggest was their early foray into redemption.
In the early days operating on the Jersey Shore, Frank learned a lot about redemption – practically as soon as he started there. So did Joe Camarota, who joined the company in 1973, himself a college student at the time at Upsala College. Needless to say, the two hit it off and Joe became a partner when brother Richard left the company back in 1984. He’s now COO.
“I think we really did become the redemption experts,” Frank said. “I don’t think there was anyone who could touch us. That’ll probably tick off some people, but I learned the business from the gurus – my mentors – on the Jersey Shore. They taught me everything. Then they got irritated when I started sharing that knowledge around the world. I guess they really wanted to keep it a secret. But one thing that’s been a constant with me is that I’m always trying to raise the bar for the industry globally.” Added Joe: “What draws people out of their homes is the out-of-home experience of winning tickets and prizes.”
In 1995, Jerry Merola joined the company, bringing a banking background and expertise with financing large projects. The three started a consulting business, Amusement Entertainment Management, which marked another pivot towards opportunity upon the leading edge of what has become a sizable boom in FECs and other large out-of-home entertainment facilities.
All in the A-O Family
Aside from the “big three” of Frank, Joe and Jerry, the company has been fortunate to have many others who share their desire to adapt and face challenges head on, a good number of whom have been with Alpha-Omega for decades.
One such person is GM Henry Stoop, who grew up around the amusement business on the Jersey Shore and worked in one of Frank’s arcades while still in high school. He’s been around long enough to see multiple iterations of the most popular machines.
“When pinball started fading a bit, we went to videos,” Henry noted. “And now, of course, most of our business is redemption games. It’s been about adapting to the changes in our culture.”
A more recent addition to the executive team is Yaroslav Sobko. Before coming on full time as Alpha-Omega’s director of marketing, Yaroslav was the CEO of a distribution company that was selling amusement equipment in Ukraine and Russia. He began searching for experts in redemption games, which weren’t yet popular in his region. Naturally, he came across Frank Seninsky, who he dubbed “Mr. Redemption.” Yaroslav said,“Frank had an enormous amount of information and he didn’t mind sharing it.”
That’s another key to the Alpha-Omega puzzle: Rising tides lift all boats. It’s been part of the company’s mission, especially over the past couple of decades, to grow the entire industry.
Joseph Camarota, Joe’s son and the company’s director of operations and sales, said Frank and Joe taught him that: “You’ve got to help others in the industry because if they’re not successful, we’re not successful.”
Their success has been spurred by their involvement in the industry, one of the ways Seninsky and others have given back. Frank was elected president of AMOANJ in 1979, and 20 years later, his company became a founding member of the IALEI national arcade operator association (Frank having served on its board and as president of that now-defunct group). Frank was also elected AMOA’s president in 1999.
The two Camarotas have been active with AAMA since 2015 (Joe was elected last year to a two-year term as president while Joseph became the co-chair of its FEC committee). Meanwhile, Yaroslav is serving on AMOA’s board of directors. These are busy people!
Everyone who’s been with the company for a long time has seen it firsthand… changing with the times and sometimes being the instigator for that change is a hallmark of Alpha-Omega. The inability to adapt is a business’s downfall, but in contrast, the ability to see coming challenges and opportunities –– and pivot accordingly –– is its way to grow. And that’s exactly what Alpha-Omega has done over the course of five decades.
From frat house college game rooms; from Jersey Shore arcades like its first in Wildwood in 1978, inside Lucky Casino; from a small operation to a nationwide (and later worldwide) juggernaut, with their own 18,600-sq.-ft. facility in East Brunswick, completed in 1994; and from traditional FECs to bigger and more elaborate game room setups at amusement parks and the like…the building blocks of this organization have been impressive.
Obviously, not every idea pans out and not every employee will stay for decades, but overall, the leadership at Alpha-Omega has been successful at finding people with different skill sets to complement each other, charting a steady course forward. It’s unclear what changes will present themselves in 10 or 20 years, but rest assured, the folks at Alpha-Omega will certainly be acting, not reacting, to whatever they are.
On the occasion of the company’s 25th anniversary, Seninsky wrote in 1995, “My partner Joe Camarota and I will never forget our simple mission: Provide the best possible games and service and try hard to solve your customer’s problems. The rest takes care of itself.”
We encourage you to read more in an insightful Q&A with the “sage of East Brunswick,” as RePlay’s publisher Eddie Adlum calls Frank, along with profiles of other key individuals who are all part of the success story that is Alpha-Omega. (In other words, grab a fresh cup of joe…Joe?…and turn the page!)
We join with many other friends in the industry in saying: “Congratulations, Frank, Joe, Jerry and everyone at Alpha-Omega!”
Visit them at www.alpha omegasales.com.
Note: This is only the first article in the special feature on Alpha-Omega. Download and read the entire report by clicking here: www.replaymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Alpha-Omega-50th-Anniversary-Special-Full-smallerfile.pdf.