California Reopening Woes: “Pac-Man Dies at Age 40 of Covid-19”


That’s the catchy headline San Diego, California, operator Doug Hutton of Heavenly Amusement used to get local TV news coverage on the devasting impact the shutdown in California has had on coin-op. In addition to media outreach, Hutton also has been spending his time making contact and building relationships with his county supervisors. He thinks other operators can duplicate these efforts throughout the state to get Governor Gavin Newsom’s ear and, more importantly, his blessing to reopen the industry.

In California, there are five supervisors for each of the 58 counties. Those supervisors, Hutton explained, are the next rung of government down from the governor. While it’s hard to get Gov. Gavin Newsom’s attention, it’s not that hard to reach these supervisors, explain how the industry works and what affect the shutdown is having on coin-op, and make a personal connection. This contact is meaningful because these supervisors DO have Newsom’s ear and have the say in how his rules are put into practice locally.

Said Hutton, “The only thing that’s going to matter is making an impact with your politicians and it’s doable. You just have to be willing to do it.

As for his headline that got the attention of San Diego’s ABC 10 TV news, he said, “I don’t doubt that someone could use that same headline in L.A. or somewhere else to get news coverage that might at the least impact or influence their supervisor. So, why not do it?” he asked.

Read the whole story in the October issue and if you’re ready to get started with your own outreach, see the emails below Hutton sent out to his supervisor and to news media in San Diego. Modify them to fit you and your business and get to work!

Doug Hutton on Camer

San Diego, Calif., operator Doug Hutton of Heavenly Amusement talks with the local ABC 10 news team about what the shutdown has meant to the industry. He also demonstrated how easy it is to keep games clean and how few touchpoints there are on amusements.

Hutton’s Communications Can Serve as Good Templates for Others

Doug Hutton’s communications with his county supervisors and local media are reprinted to provide inspiration, as well as a starting point for other operators in the Golden State and beyond who face ongoing shutdowns of machines and locations. As Hutton noted, a lot of lawmakers simply don’t understand how the amusement business works and a bit of education can go a long way.


Email to his San Diego County Supervisor, Kristin Gaspar:

Dear Supervisor Gaspar,

I could use your help and guidance with my business dilemma:

My business provides video games to restaurants here in San Diego on a revenue-sharing basis. Currently we are waiting for the Governor to lift the restrictions on dine-in eating. When the Governor allowed the brief period of restaurant dine-in eating in June, he also provided workable guidelines to allow the operation of video games and pinball machines in these restaurants. As someone whose business is providing games to these restaurants, I felt these guidelines weren’t optimal, but they were at least something we could work with. Shortly thereafter, new San Diego County health regulations for restaurants outright banned all games in restaurants, without any path to reopening, effectively putting me back out of business. Eventually, the Governor will ease the restrictions on dine-in eating. When this time comes, it would be very helpful to my business if the San Diego County Department of Health would allow us to at least turn a portion of these games back on in a safe manner, which I can elaborate on if you wish.

Here is the link to the County Board of Health regulation that prohibits games, item 14J of


Douglas Hutton

Heavenly Amusement

[he also included his cellphone number]

Following this email, he heard back directly from Supervisor Gaspar and then continued the email exchange, specifically mentioning some of the locations in the area in which he has games, as well as thanking her for the favorable comments she made to the ABC station that contacted her for the news story.

Email to Local Media:

This is the email Hutton sent to ABC reporter Adam Racusin. The others followed the same style. Hutton heard back from two stations, but chose to work with the one that responded first, ABC 10. He spent time before the reporter and photojournalist came out, staging his warehouse to focus the visuals on clean, working games. He also made a point of keeping gun games out of sight to avoid any focus on issues unrelated… He also walked them through how easy it is to keep machines sanitized, pointing to relatively few touchpoints on games.

Hi Adam,

As a lifelong resident of San Diego, I’m hoping you can help my business out.

“PAC-MAN dies at age 40 of Covid-19” is a story I think needs to be told. Everyone identifies with video games and arcades. Who hasn’t been to Chuck E. Cheese?

The current restrictions in San Diego County (as well as throughout California and the rest of the country) on coin-operated games are crushing this industry from the manufacturer down to the people who place these games in restaurants and bars (like me). Soon this industry will be dead due to Covid-19. If this is a story you’d like to break please contact me. I can get you in touch with the people who make these games (Hutton listed some of the bigger, recognizable names) and people at every level in this industry.

I’m sure you’ve eaten at some of the places I do business with … (he named several locations) … to name a few.


Douglas Hutton

Heavenly Amusement

[he added his cellphone number]


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