Editorial – April 2024


Eddie Adlum 6-2020

Many, many years ago at one of AMOA’s Conrad Hilton (Chicago) fall conventions, I ran into Bert Betti while I was touring the machine showing. Bert, as most people in the business remember, was the patriarch of H. Betti Industries, more commonly called Betson Distributors. He was at the Brunswick booth, looking intently at what looked at first blush like a pool table, but this one didn’t have any pockets.

Obviously, I’m referring to Air Hockey, Brunswick’s most notable contribution to the coin machine industry. While we both eyeballed the table, I said something like: “Do you think that will ever sell?” and his reply was legendary: “Look at all the other distributors checking it out.” He was right. A small group of dealers like Philadelphia’s Joe Ash had gathered around the table while a couple of showgoers were shooting the puck back and forth.

Air hockey, still produced by a couple of factories like Valley-Dynamo, caused what economists call a “mild disruption” in the business. Another distributor from Philly, named Al Rodstein, tacked a tournament program onto the product and air hockey took off like an airplane (despite complaints from a couple of operators that some bargoers might lose an eye if the puck flew off the table and hit them in the face). You just gotta keep an open mind.

So, what sort of “market disruptions” (mild or otherwise) popped at the recent Las Vegas expo? As the pundits say, time will tell. One thing is certain. The presence of the prize business, a sub-section of coin-op that definitely seems to be here to stay, was all over the trade show floor. This wasn’t always the case. I remember clearly when laws against giving out anything (free game or Tootsie Roll) was considered to be illegal gambling by numerous jurisdictions. But thanks to such industry disrupters as Bert himself (including his arcade guy Artie Warner), cranes came back into coin-op’s world, and the rest is pleasant history.

We have a rather generous section inside covering this rather generous side of the trade that you should read with a pencil and paper in front of you. The world of merchandise didn’t appear and take off like air hockey did. But, slowly, like the tide coming in, it made its way into the forefront of the game center business and even many route operations via the cranes and merchandisers. If all this is called a “market disruption,” it’s been significant and a pleasure to watch it all take place.


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