Ready for Dallas!
Expo Exhibit Sales Strong; Fair Play Pledge Makes Its Debut at Dallas Convention
Q: How was the Annual Meeting and Gala? It looked like a pretty newsy affair!
A: It’s certainly a busy and exciting time! I just found out this morning that we’ve sold out the hotel block at the Sheraton. That’s a good sign. For those who haven’t booked their rooms, it sounds like Brian Glasgow was able to get another block with rooms priced at $179 per night at the Marriott. It’s not optimal, but it’s in the same general area as the Sheraton. I’m pretty excited about that!
Booth sales have gone very well, too. We’ve already had to expand the floor and redesign the layout because we needed more booth space. As of last Monday (Jan. 30), we were 28 booths over where the show was last year and we’ve still got three weeks to go. Right now, there are 20 booths left so I wouldn’t be surprised if we completely fill up the floor and sell out. That’s fantastic news!
I can officially say that this is going to be the largest Amusement Expo ever in the seven years of a combined show. It’s definitely grown from last year in terms of new exhibitors and exhibit space on the floor. We’re excited about the first-time exhibitors who are coming to Dallas. It appears the change in location has been a boon for the show, as well as our push into the FEC sector. I think we’re starting to see some ancillary companies that sell into that market want to have some face time with the FEC people.
Now, of course, the concern is to make sure we get enough people in the aisles so the exhibitors feel they had great attendance and got their money’s worth. So far, pre-registration is a little down from last year, but most people tend to wait until the last minute. We keep urging people to get their rooms booked early, and keep harping on the fact that they’re not going to be able to find $99 hotel rooms in Dallas at the last minute like they can in Vegas.
We’ve had really strong registration from the FEC side, especially from those around Dallas. For example, Chuck E. Cheese signed up 11 people to come to the show and we’re seeing a lot of positive feedback from the other FECs in the area. I expect to see a great turnout from the FEC community in general, too.
While that is a positive, I am strongly concerned about the turnout from the street operating community.
One of the things I heard last week at the AMOA state association meeting was that some Midwest distributors were planning on doing open houses following our Expo because operators in their area said they weren’t planning on going to Dallas. To make sure their customers are exposed to the new products on the market, they’re planning their own events. I hope operators will remember that a national convention brings much more than exposure to new games. There are companies exhibiting other products and services, networking opportunities and more that you won’t find in a distributor’s showroom.
A big plus of the convention is the education program and this year’s is completely filled out. (See the full list of programs elsewhere in this issue.) We’ve got two tracks like last year – street and FEC — running concurrently.
We’re definitely trying to invest more time and energy into the education portion. For example, we’re discussing the length of the sessions for the future. Right now, they are typically an hour long, but we’re talking about cutting those blocks down to give more time for different topics. For example, do we make them a half-hour long, a little like the TED talks? This would give them 20 minutes to knock it out and then people could move to the next topic to maximize how much education they can get in one day. We’ll see where this leads.
Fair Play Pledge To Debut
I’m happy to be able to give you an update on our Fair Play Pledge (FPP). I saw the final draft this week; it will go out to the board for approval and then we’ll start getting it out to all manufacturer and distributor members for them to sign. Then we’re going to launch the project and announce all the details at the Amusement Expo.
It’s been a considerable amount of work. We actually involved a lawyer in the Chicago area who deals with amusement and theme park legal issues to help draft how we wanted the language to come across. We don’t want to injure our manufacturing and distributing members. Instead, the goal is to guide the general direction of the association and the industry going forward.
It will be a requirement for membership in the association. That’s the line we’ve drawn: If you want to be an AAMA member, you’ll have to sign on to the Fair Play Pledge. We feel it’s very important and that we need to take a stand about games that don’t offer the player a chance to succeed, or at least have a reasonable chance to win. That’s really what these guidelines are all about.
We’ve spoken with all of the major manufacturers and have gotten buy-in. They’ve been a part of this process all along the way. The same is true with our distributor members. We’ve tried to keep everybody involved in the process to make sure they understand what we’re doing and why.
Doing it this way makes it more palatable. We didn’t want this to be something we just came out with, suddenly surprising everybody and hitting them over the head with a hammer. We wanted this to be something where we knew ahead of time that they were in the same mindset; that they recognized that going forward this was not the way we wanted the industry to be.
I’m excited to have the Fair Play Pledge. I’ll be proud to turn the association back after my term as president and say I was part of the effort to address this issue and help make our business even more family friendly.
By the way, I have to give some kudos to the people in the California association. At CEMA’s show in February, they had a document they were handing out called “Best practices for crane and redemption operation.” A lot of that runs parallel with what we’re doing with the Fair Play Pledge. We’re addressing it at a manufacturer/distributor association level, but I was happy to see a state association take a lead on helping operators understand the more appropriate way to run their machines.
I want to congratulate CEMA for taking those steps. We can do as much as we want at the manufacturer/distributor level, but it’s really going to be up to the street to operate the games in a more fair way going forward.
By the way, we realize that some exhibitors at the Expo might bring games designed for sale in international markets where the laws or “rules” of fair play are different. We’ll have a decal they can put on these machines to help identify that they’re non-Fair Play Pledge games. We’re not intending on putting an FPP sticker on games as a requirement (like we did with the game violence ratings). One of the things we do see is making it more of an advertisement for a family entertainment center or operator saying that he complies with the FPP. He can document that at his location/place of business.
I’d like to make one more sales pitch for the Amusement Expo. While we had some initial concerns about having the show in Dallas, the fact that we’ve almost sold out the floor from an exhibitor standpoint and we’ve sold out our room block, says we have something really exciting and new going on this year. It’s not the same old go-to-Vegas Expo. If an operator wants to see what the new and exciting equipment is, they need to be there!
Chris Felix, National OEM Sales Manager for MEI Conlux/CPI (Crane Payment Innovations), worked for MEI prior to its acquisition by Crane. Felix, who was elected to his two-year term at the AAMA Annual Meeting and Gala in August, has been honored with the group’s President’s and Joe Robbins awards. A U.S. Navy veteran, he served as a Nuclear Reactor Operator aboard the USS Minneapolis St. Paul and the USS Greeneville submarines. When he’s not busy with work or association duties and travel, you might find Chris out training for a marathon.