Jersey Jack – May 2024


Today’s Pinball Makes Dollars and Sense

by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball &

Pinball means many things to people. For the growing category of “pinball operator,” it’s a way to make money.

Return on Investment – ROI – is always top of mind for the operator. How much does the game cost, how much can it make, and for how long, and when do I break even and start to make money? Those are just some of the basic considerations when buying any game, new or used. With a used game, you have the benefit of earnings history, a proven track record of the pin’s performance. Everyone knows what it is, if it makes money and if it has “legs,” the ability to earn for a long time.

But buying a new game can be more difficult. “I need the data,” a big operator told me once when I was trying to sell him a new machine. What is it earning and where? In a busy arcade, a game that’s out of order can make more than a working game at a low traffic location. I am kind of joking here, but it really is location, location, location.

Years ago, my favorite distributors would call me saying that “X” game was earning such and such, a wild amount of money at the Broadway Arcade, asking how many of “X” games I wanted to order. My thought was always, “Well, give me the one at Broadway Arcade!” For me, a decision on buying any game was based on how much it was going to make, not how much it cost.

The late NYC pinball operator Alan Cihak was a fierce proponent of pinball on location. I met him around 2005 when he bought route games from me at I would install a bill acceptor on the games he bought from us at no charge so he would earn more money, something almost no one else did at that time, and it made a big difference in earnings.

In later years, he would learn how to “split” a location with another operator, something relatively unheard of. Say an operator, we’ll call him Joe, has a tavern where he revenue shares a downloading jukebox, pool tables, dart games and video games and the tavern owner wants pinball. Joe doesn’t run pingames and says no. It’s a sore point for both. Enter Alan who agrees to only operate pinball in the location. It sounds impossible, but it works. Joe was happy he didn’t have to invest in pinball, thus keeping the core of equipment he felt comfortable operating. Alan and the tavern owner were happy, too.

Earnings screen - Jersey Jack 0524

My company, Jersey Jack Pinball, is on this month’s cover with Elton John, the factory’s newest game which was released last October. We thought we’d screenshot the audit screen from one after a month of operation. (Yes, it may be a bit self-serving to share this, but I’m trying to make a point here.) The game had $2,319 paid credits for the month. You’d think the operator would have been screaming this from the rooftop. But no. (You can ruminate on why but my other thought is that if the game wasn’t working or didn’t earn, it would be plastered all over social media!)

Yes, I’ve got a lot of skin in the pinball game so I have an interest in promoting the game, no matter who makes it. But I’m honestly telling you this: Pinball on location makes money! There’s ROI, resale value and the fact that the players are loyal and return regularly to play pinball again and again, spending money at the location while they’re there. You’ve got league and tournament play, as well as casual play. Today’s games are not your grandfather’s pinball machines. Don’t be afraid of them. They’re fun, they work, they bring people into a location and they make money.


Jack Guarnieri started servicing electromechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999,, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011, he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at [email protected].


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