Family Entertainment Group’s George Smith said members of the industry have been making progress in their quest to get arcades open in Massachusetts. “It’s been a mixed bag, but encouraging on one side of it.” As reportedin Instant RePlay on July 8, the state puts fun centers in Phase 4 of reopening, which means they must remain shuttered until there’s a vaccine or effective treatment. For those in the amusement business, that’s seen as an unfair edict, especially when casinos in the state have already been given the green light.
Said Smith, “We’ve had some really wonderful interaction with people who are invested in this one and everybody’s been really positive.” Well over a dozen people and organizations within the industry are part of their “Entertainment Coalition,” which is moving rapidly to affect change.
“Last week, we had a great conversation with a group of representatives of the lieutenant governor’s office which, as I had expected, was pleasant but didn’t accomplish much,” Smith said. “This week, we hired a legal/lobbying firm called ML Strategies to represent us and help develop strategies. They are well-regarded and were representatives for the Encore casino and, as we’ve discussed, the casinos are open in Massachusetts.”
The hope is, of course, that they’ll be successful working on behalf of amusement locations as well.
“The problem is that it’s obvious that the health department and many of the people making the decisions just don’t know what an ‘arcade’ is or what it is exactly that we do,” he added. “So, part of it is education. We’ve also proposed that if you’re going to allow casinos to up, you should allow us to do so as well, at least under pretty much those same rules.”
Additionally, Smith noted the clientele in a game room is significantly younger than the average casino goer. He said one of the coalition members visited a casino, taking pictures showing older Americans sitting in front of slot machines. “Looking at those images,” he said, “I would gather the average age in a Massachusetts casino is probably north of 60 years of age. On the other hand, the average customer of ours is somewhere in their 20s. That’s very important because by all studies, our demographic is not high risk.”
Facing a Phase 4 reopening is “really difficult,” Smith said. “Rick Kirby, Mike Crowley, David Breen and others have just done fabulous work. We think we’re going to get another hearing with some of the state officials via the group that we’ve hired. I’m hopeful that we’ll get a positive response sooner than later.”
To get involved or learn more, contact Rick Kirby at Betson New England by phoning 781-821-8533 or call George Smith at 847-842-6310 (email [email protected]). RePlay will continue to update readers as we learn new details.