Meet the New Chief
Holly Hampton Installed As AAMA President
Holly Hampton’s wide-spanning career took her from an early stint in the Army Reserves to working for her father while attending university to falling into an internship with Bay Tek, a company she now calls family.
Now, she’s become the first woman to ever top the American Amusement Machine Association, a two-year post she holds with honor, dedication and a cheery attitude focused on determining the industry’s best path forward. As president, she looks to continue diversifying the membership and leadership of the AAMA with a constant influx of new faces, further pursue the associa-tion’s growth in the FEC sector and encourage better idea sharing through a new online forum.
Hampton’s road to the amusement industry didn’t start early, and at 17 she had a different route in mind. Searching for a sense of structure, Hampton sat down with her parents and told them she’d like to join the Army Reserves.
“I wasn’t old enough at the time to sign without them. I remember my dad high-fiving me and my mom crying. After graduation, I went to the Army. It was a great challenge but a wonderful experience,” Hampton said. “I was looking for structure that the military brought, but I had swung the pendulum a little too far and decided early on I wasn’t going to make a career out of it.”
After her service, Hampton returned home and quickly realized she didn’t have a plan. She began working for her father at a paper mill, knowing that he needed the help and she needed the money. After a couple months working the factory scene, Hampton saw college as the next step toward her goals.
“I thought I was going to be a teacher, but after a few years of school I couldn’t decide whether I’d be in primary or secondary education,” Hampton said. “And I thought if I can’t answer such a simple question, I must not have passion for the classroom.”
Going into her junior year, Hampton was accepted into business school. She had continued working with her father over the summer and holidays, but with her business aspirations in mind, soon realized that she needed to spend her extra time working internships.
Hampton reached out to her uncle, Larry Treankler, CEO at Bay Tek Games, and suddenly she was working a summer internship with the company.
As she was going into her final year, Bay Tek offered her a full-time job. She almost didn’t accept, thinking that maybe she’d try and go it on her own, without family connections to help. She had been offered an internship that paid more and was closer to her home, but Hampton says she couldn’t turn down what seemed like a good fit, saying the wide gamut of creative possibilities the Bay Tek job offered convinced her to accept.
“Back when I started, everyone wore multiple hats… Larry is an entrepreneur at heart, so not only were we designing and manufacturing amusement games, we were always working on side projects,” Hampton said.
“There has always been something drawing me back to Bay Tek. Every year, we were innovating and bringing joy to people. I wasn’t just an employee there, I was part of the family.”
Since her early days at the Wisconsin factory, the company has tripled in size from 60 employees to 180. She found enjoyment working for the game company, helping it grow and adapt as the industry landscape shifted. After some years, and plenty of networking at trade shows, Hampton decided it would be good for Bay Tek (and herself) to further integrate with the AAMA. She saw a lack of representation from the ticket redemption crowd and in 2008 decided to get involved.
“I felt like it might be out of my comfort zone, but I went to my first annual meeting and had a lot of fun. I saw it as a good way to network and stay involved, as well as a way to push myself out of an introvert mentality,” Hampton said.
She joined the industry promotion committee after attending a few meetings, and before she knew it, was co-chair with the well-known Don Marshall.
Hampton said in those days of the association, she saw a lot of intransigence, and seriously considered leaving the committee. “It came to a point where I found things to be very frustrating. I felt like we were stuck in our ways as an industry and no one was willing to take a risk or make an effort to change,” Hampton said. “I talked to some people about it, a few of whom were genuinely disappointed but understanding. They convinced me to rethink it, and I had a heart to heart with myself and thought if there aren’t people willing to fight for change then the same thing will continue to happen.”
She recommitted her efforts to the AAMA, and was soon reaching out to see if she could join the group’s board of directors. She began sitting in at the committee level, and then joined the board. Every step along the way she kept realizing the importance of Bay Tek being at the table, as well as how fun it was to be part of something larger than her company.
Hampton became a well-known face at AAMA as she moved her way up, and saw a firebrand of change in Pete Gustafson when the group elected him in 2013. Gustafson asked her to be on the group’s steering committee, and she accepted. She says she saw the same energy in Chris Felix, AAMA’s most recent president.
“Pete is a ball of energy, and such an inspiration,” Hampton said. “I wanted to align myself with people that want to make a difference, and Pete and Chris both were that.”
Hampton was elected VP of the group in 2015, and continued working to bring her vision to life. She says she was unready for the president’s role at the time, and didn’t think about the next step much during her two years as VP, deciding instead to focus on the work at hand. But at the eleventh hour, after much deliberation, Hampton decided to throw her name in the hat.
“From a work standpoint, I didn’t think I was ready. But the stars started to align, and I hired a few people to help me with my day job,” Hampton said. “By October, I thought maybe I’d be ready for this.”
Hampton interviewed along with other nominees during the spring Amusement Expo, and says she immersed herself in work thereafter. The summer came and went, and a few months before the AAMA’s annual Gala (when the elected officers are announced) she was beginning to get a little nervous.
“I made up the story in my head that I wasn’t going to get the job,” she said. But when she heard the news, she was relieved and really, really excited.
“It was such an honor to be the first female president of the AAMA,” Hampton said. “Especially when they told me they had to add ‘she’ to the bylaws.”
Hampton emphasizes that nowhere in the bylaws did it say the president had to be a man, but thinks it highlights the importance of her achievement, and hopes her work can upend any assump-tions people may have.
“There are more women in the industry today, especially compared to when I started. I think part of it is just getting more exposure. It’s easy for people to have assumptions,” Hampton said. “I hope to get more women involved, and new faces in general. Sometimes it’s so hard to jump in the water, and when I started it was all men.”
More than anything, she hopes to see a continued cycle of new faces going from attending meetings to chairing committees to running the board.
Hampton’s main focus as president of the AAMA is growth. The group had good success pursuing FEC operators and owners, and Hampton believes the AAMA is a good home for those business owners and more. She wants to better leverage the group’s offerings, and along with sister organization, AMOA, cover and serve the entire breadth of the amusement industry.
She also is working with AMOA to bring the annual Amusement Expo to the next level. She believes it is a key part of both group’s identity and offerings. She sees this industry as unique in many ways, one being its willing-ness to share ideas in the name of a healthy business landscape. A major focus of her tenure will be to leverage the power of the entire industry’s combined knowledge through an online forum where ideas, strategies, tools and more can be shared.
Also, AAMA is commit-ted to staying active in our nation’s capital. Hampton says the group’s work there has been amazing over the last few years, and encourages AAMA and AMOA members alike to get involved there and elsewhere in the organizations.
“You don’t even have to join a committee, just get involved and talk with one another. Have people that you can call up and ask a question, and solve a problem together. This business works best when people are communicating,” she said.
Ultimately, Hampton looks to her peers and the industry as a whole for inspiration on how to better AAMA. Along with AMOA, the association is positioned to serve the entire industry, and believes they can provide benefits to just about anyone. But she says it’s a two-way street, and input is always appreciated.
“When you’re trying to create anything, you need input from people. Field testing, focus groups, all that helps us make a better game at Bay Tek,” Hampton said. “It’s the same with the association. We want to make sure we provide a good product. If that happens, everyone wins. We hope to do that and have some fun while we’re at it.”
Late in 2017, the AAMA inaugurated the association’s first ever female president, Holly Hampton. Hampton has been involved with the industry since she landed an internship at Bay Tek Games, where she still works today, and developed quickly as a potential leader for the AAMA. She started getting involved in 2008, pushing herself out of her comfort zone and onto the horizon she flies today. Among her goals: to continue to diversify the association’s leadership and membership, continue to pursue the group’s growth within the FEC part of the business, and to encourage idea sharing through a new online forum. “When you’re trying to create anything, you need input from people. Field testing, focus groups, all that helps us make a better game at Bay Tek,” Hampton said. “It’s the same with the association. We want to make sure we provide a good product. If that happens, everyone wins. We hope to do that and have some fun while we’re at it.”