Meet Bob Burnham – AMOA President


Colorado’s Bob Burnham

Getting to Know the New President of AMOA

With Amusement Expo in the rearview, there’s a new AMOA president in town. Of course, that’s Bob Burnham, the route and arcade operator (oh, and distributor, too) who was already president of CAMO, the Colorado association he spearheaded in 2020.

Busy as ever, Bob recently sat down to share with RePlay how he got started in the business, his involvement with AMOA and CAMO, and his plans for the national association over the next year.

Bob Burnham and Gramps

Games with Gramps: From about 6 years old on, Burnham’s grandfather (seen in this photo of them playing together in 2005) would take him to the local arcade, Pocket Change. It was there that Bob’s love for amusement games, and pinball in particular, was born. Later, that game center closed and he and his grandfather opened their first arcade, Goodtimes Pinball & Arcade, in that very spot. Of his grandfather, Bob said, “He shaped me into the man I am today. He was a great man, best man in my wedding and my best friend.”

RePlay: Let’s start with your background in the industry. You’ve been an operator for more than 20 years now, but what inspired you to get into the business?

Burnham: When I was young, my grandpa (“Gramps”) would pick me up during Christmas breaks and summer vacations and any other time I had off and take me to the local arcade called Pocket Change. We would play games like Operation Wolf, After Burner Cockpit, Sunset Riders and, of course, pinball. Our favorites were The Addams Family and Creature from the Black Lagoon. He is really the one who got me into arcades. We’d have fun for hours there.

Then about 22 years ago, I found a Time Machine pinball at a garage sale for $350. It wasn’t working, but I started repairing it, learning as I went. It rekindled my passion for arcades and pinball machines.

Wanting to get back into playing pinball, I started calling the bowling alleys in the area, asking if they had the games so I could go play. I called one in Greeley, Colora­do, and happened to get the owner on the phone. When I asked him if he had any pins, he said, “No. I’ve been trying to get pinballs in here for years, and no one will bring me any.”

I hung up and I got to thinking…I had just sold my lawn service and had a little cash that I could spend on more games. I called him back and said, “How about I bring you some pinball machines?” He answered with an enthusiastic “OK!” So, I went out and found an Addams Family (of course), a Fishtales and a Star Trek Next Generation, along with Time Machine, and took those four pins to his location.

I will never forget the first time I opened up Addams and saw all those quarters in the coinbox, all glistening under the lights of the playfield. I thought, “Wow! I’m onto something here!”

About a month went by and the operator who had the video and other arcade games in his location got upset and pulled all the machines out. The owner called me and said, “Well, I guess you need to bring me arcade games, too.”

Gramps lent me some money, and I went out and bought an Asteroids, Deer Hunting, Time Crisis 2 and Sunset Riders. The rest is history. Paradise Pinball was born!

Today, we take care of just over 150 locations.

Talk about how the operation grew and what led you to open Flippers Family Arcade.

I was selling used trucks at a truck dealership and was growing my route business on the side. When I hit about 15 locations, I left truck sales and went full-time in my route. We were steadily growing and then, in 2016, one of my locations closed with all our equipment still inside. I met with the owner to see about how to get our games out, and he asked if we knew anyone who would want to rent the place. When I told him I had always wanted to open an arcade but could never afford a place like his, he asked, “How do you know?”

So, I told him what I could afford, and he said, “Done.” I was like, OK, I guess we’re opening an arcade! We celebrate Flippers’ eighth birthday this July and have right at 100 machines in the game room.

When we featured your new Paradise Distributing company last year, you were really ramping up and had 14 lines. How’s that changed since then?

Paradise Distributing, just like my operation, started because of my love for pinball. Gary Stern was amazing and knew how much I loved the game even when it wasn’t so popular. They called me the “pinball evangelist” and the “pied piper of pinball.” Stern wanted me to get more operators involved in pinball. And so, with around five lines including Stern Pinball, Paradise Distributing of Wyoming was born. We now have over 20 lines and are a full-line distributor. We have been steadily growing distribution and seeing the support has been amazing.

How did you get started with the AMOA?

I got involved with the AMOA nine years ago when a friend handed me an application to join their board. He said, “This is something you need to do and be a part of.” I took it home, researched what AMOA was, and decided to turn in my paperwork. I was accepted and became a board member.

This was the single most important thing I’ve ever done in my career. It opened so many doors. From enabling me to make lifelong friendships to getting to know almost all the manufacturers in this industry, the AMOA gave me the keys to open up my distributorship. If I have a question or am unsure about something in my businesses, I can pick up the phone and call any number of friends who’ve been there or know what to do.

AMOA membership also taught me so much about the route side of my business – how to do things and operate the right way, even what games to operate and where. I truly get so much out of my AMOA membership. This is why I am beyond honored to be the president of this amazing association.

What are you most excited about accomplishing as president?

I’m very much looking forward to going out and visiting the state associations across the country, being part of their meetings. During those trips, I want to meet as many AMOA members, and see as many industry friends, as I can.

More broadly, I want to work for a more unified industry on every level, from route operators to FEC and arcade owners, to suppliers, distributors and manufacturers. We are all a part of the same amazing industry and the more unified we can be, the better off we’ll be as a whole.

AMOA DC Lobbying trip 2024

Burnham, pictured with Tim Zahn, AMOA Executive VP Lori Schneider and Joe Jacobson, was a first-time participant in AMOA’s lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., this March. The team met with lawmakers and their staff on bank account closures and fair access to banking.

What are some of the top issues on your agenda?

In March, I had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and be part of the AMOA’s lobbying delegation for the first time. I’ve listened to reports on the great work our legislative team has been doing, but being there firsthand really opened my eyes to the important conversations we continue to have with legislative leaders regarding bank account closures and fair access to banking. I look forward to continuing to be a part of these visits as we get closer to addressing these challenges.

How do you think the street business is doing these days and how could it be better?

I think route operators are doing really well right now. We have been wide open for the past two years, growing almost faster than we can keep up. The demand for what we do is incredible with a lot of small location owners needing amusement operators. We fill an amazing gap for locations that want to turn a little space into extra income, generating more revenue and having customers stay at their locations longer.

How do you think 2024 will be for the amusement business overall?

My outlook is always positive. I think this is an amazing time to be in this industry. I am seeing pinball collectors wanting to become operators, which I think is awesome. In fact, we’ve been doing seminars on how to become an operator and the attendance has been amazing. People are hungry to learn how to operate and learn best practices within the industry.The knowledge that can be gleaned from AMOA is almost unlimited. With all the continuing education that the association offers, now is a great time to get involved.

We haven’t talked about the Colorado association yet. As one who spearheaded its creation, can you talk about how your role there has shaped this new group?

With the knowledge I gained from the AMOA and the many great members within it, I was able to help get CAMO (Colorado Amusement & Music Operators) off the ground. We are about 30 members strong and made up of operators, distributors, FEC owners and manufacturers. The support is amazing. We’ve been able to tackle many issues on a state level.

As current president of CAMO, I’m getting ready to pass the torch. I will have my hands full being the president of AMOA!



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