California Ops Fed Up: Explores Legal Action Over “Arbitrary and Capricious” Covid-Related Restraints


CEMA, the California Entertainment Machine Assn., announced today that it is exploring legal action challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration over coronavirus restrictions that ban the public from using jukeboxes, pinballs, video games and other amusements and devices in bars, restaurants and other locations.

CEMA characterizes the state’s restrictions on the operation of its members’ equipment as “arbitrary and capricious.” The association says:

  • Many kiosks, another type of unattended device, are permitted to operate in the state while amusement machines have been forced to shut down.
  • Wineries and vineyards are allowed to operate while breweries and bars have been forced to remain closed.
  • The state’s FECs, which offer arcade games and other attractions, are in danger of permanent closures.

Statewide, the majority of kiosks –– machines very similar to the amusement industry’s products –– including those run by the California Lottery, continue to operate during the pandemic. Citing another example of “the state’s inconsistent treatment of businesses,” Redbox self-service entertainment rental and sales kiosks are also permitted to operate. CEMA stated: “Lottery and Redbox kiosks, among others offering nonessential services, are permitted to operate while amusement and entertainment kiosks such as skill cranes, video games and jukeboxes are not. Furthermore, lottery and Redbox kiosks are often placed side-by-side with amusement and entertainment kiosks in retail locations.”

Association president Jim Wyatt said, “CEMA members take all appropriate Covid-compliant safety measures and follow the best practices outlined by the Amusement and Music Operators Association, our Chicago-based national association, to provide a safe experience for our customers.”

CEMA also takes exception to the state’s arbitrary treatment toward bars and breweries, noting that they are equally capable of following the same protocols that allow restaurants and wineries to operate. Bars and breweries are vital parts to local communities; the small business people who run them must be allowed to continue to operate in the same manner in which restaurants and wineries do.

“Restaurants are permitted to open with limited occupancy while bars are not permitted to open under similar arrangements — and that is a completely capricious distinction,” Wyatt said.

The association also said FECs are able to follow all the same procedures as restaurants, and they are capable and ready to implement additional safety measures. These include turning off every other machine, rearranging floorplans to promote physical distancing and limiting attendance. “Because many FECs are anchored to other businesses – shopping malls, pizzerias, family restaurants, skating rinks and bowling centers, etc. – and are not owned by the host sites, they will shutter permanently if steps to reopen them are not adopted swiftly,” the group’s statement said.

“CEMA wants to underscore with categorical confidence that amusement and music equipment, along with family entertainment centers, are not a public safety risk during the Covid pandemic,” Wyatt said.

The CEMA board of directors is consulting with several law firms to explore forming an alliance with similarly situated industries and trade associations to pursue any measures available to preserve the livelihoods of its members and myriad small businesses they serve. For more information on CEMA, including how to become a member, visit them online at


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