Fair Play Pledge Update
Fall Deadline for Members to Sign the FPP Means It’s Go Time at AAMA
When AAMA members gather for its annual Gala this October, a new requirement will be in place: that they sign and abide by the association’s Fair Play Pledge. This requires that for the U.S. market, member companies only build and operate games that give players a fair chance of winning. RePlay spoke with AAMA President Holly Hampton about the FPP, whether member companies have begun signing the pledge and ensuring their compliance, and how the AAMA plans to regulate and enforce the new rules.
Q: The FPP asks members to ensure that their games offer a skillful, improvable and controllable opportunity to win with each play. For years, a fraction of games in the industry have used auto-percentaging and other manipulations designed to ensure the operator can also make a fair profit. Has AAMA considered the impact the FPP could have on that revenue and those operators?
A: We don’t have a large operator membership that needs to comply. With all of the past, ongoing and potential future legal issues that have arisen around redemption games that aren’t fully skill oriented, we know many operators are already transitioning their businesses away from that.
We haven’t gotten any bad feedback on the FPP so far, and honestly have had a huge positive response from nearly everyone we’ve worked and spoken with. We really think this is just the right thing to do. That’s what it gets down to.
The industry needs to be fair and equitable, and the large majority of it is. It’s not like we’re dealing with dark, seedy games, we’re about fun! And for a long time, most people in this industry have also understood that winners make players.
In the past, our industry made plenty of revenue with games that didn’t even have prizes or a redemption aspect. The FPP was not a desperate attempt to fight an epidemic of unfair games, but a way for AAMA to ensure that it could target a small portion of the industry that has built games that don’t necessarily fit our description of fair. Basically, we wanted to create the FPP to cut off that portion at the source: the manufacturer. By the way, most of the titles we identified as problems aren’t being manufactured anymore.
Does the AAMA plan on doing any PR outreach to let people know that the FPP is going into effect?
Our stance is to not do any big PR push. As I said before, we didn’t want this to come across as something we’d been forced into, or that consumers were being cheated. After all, 99 percent of the games in this industry already comply with this pledge. The real problem is high-end merchandisers, and those games are hard to design. For instance, the company I work for has only brought to market a half dozen or so merchandisers in 41 years and only one high-end merchandiser, Road Trip.
Both operators and manufacturers have responded positively to this pledge, and a lot of it is because it gives them a solid defense to present if they get a complaint. So it’s not like we’re telling people to not hang up a copy in their shop or FEC, but we wanted to leave that to people who may deal with complaints. They want to be able to get away from this perception that there is “rigging” going on. They want to be able to pull this out and say, “We complied with the Fair Play Pledge and this is what it is.”
How does AAMA intend to regulate and enforce this new pledge, especially with many manufacturers building games overseas?
In our government relations committee meeting in February, we talked about the FPP and established The Fair Play Pledge and Compliance Committees, which is made up of Joe Camarota, Rich Babich, Frank Cosentino, Chris Felix and myself. We also created a more technically focused committee that would be examining the inner workings of these games, advising the compliance committee in what is or isn’t fair, and could determine the validity of complaints. The Technical Advisory Committee under the Fair Play Pledge Committee is Adam Ambrosius, Nick Broncato and Curt Elrod.
As far as foreign-made games, it gets complicated. This FPP is a policy for the U.S. Our member companies can provide international machines that don’t comply; we will not be able to stop them from building those games in other countries. In the long run, we don’t want to create a policy that will harm members’ businesses, so we are allowing that. If they want to create a game that has certain features, that will create a bit of a headache for our enforcement committee.
We’re trying to get back to an industry that is focused on fun not only revenue. I think back to the carnival industry, the first amusement industry that developed a bad reputation. The AAMA, and myself personally, really don’t want to see our industry go down the same route, and don’t want to see the FECs, the Dave & Buster’s and the Chuck E. Cheese’s end up with the same bad rep.
To cap it off, have members started to sign up for the pledge already?
No members have signed so far, but we haven’t done a campaign yet. That will be coming soon. We still have until the first week of October, when the Fair Play Pledge goes into play.
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.”