(Thanks to Mark Arson for the tip)
UPDATE: Since this story broke, it looks like some fans of Plaza have come to the rescue, covering the fees and allowing Plaza to keep the games. Great news!
I guess I should be keeping count of these stories where a city or state steps into a business with arcade games and makes life difficult for some reason or another. Today’s story comes from Clatl.com, where a non-profit business known as the Plaza Theatre had all of their classic game machines (stuff like Defender, Ms. Pac-Man) confiscated by the Georgia Revenue Department. The games were not the primary part of what Plaza does but they were something that contributed in small part to what they have been doing there. It sounds like the machines were setup on a vendor revenue share type basis, with those machines being owned and operated by someone other than Plaza but apparently no one knew that you had to have certain stickers on the machines showing that some chunk of what they make is going to the state.
This of course doesn’t make headlines like the constant attempts by states and cities to crack down on kid’s lemonade stands but it is part of a trend – as states have been running up huge budget deficits on what amounts to them getting a huge magical credit card, reality eventually sets in, they can’t print money to pay their bills so they are willing to get revenue in any way possible. As more places around the world (several countries in Europe are teetering and the US seems well on its way) have to grapple with the possibility of bankruptcy and collapse, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more stories like this, but hopefully something can be done in some areas to change the laws or fees before too much longer. It’s certainly why I have stressed before to always check with local authorities about your upcoming business and make sure you have the appropriate fees or licensing taken care of so you don’t get caught off guard. In regards to Georgia’s budget deficit, a simple Google search shows it’s not roses and lollipops where they seem to be headed.
Now in regards to this, it appears that Plaza was allowing someone else to operate the machines there and neither had any idea about the fee. Hopefully they can work out a solution with the state as it seems like a lot more trouble than it is worth for Georgia to be worrying about a handful of old arcade machines, which tax/fee revenue they would bring in is quite minimal. Of course I’m not a big fan of these fees as it is – often what happens is the state begins to charge so much per machine that it makes it completely pointless to run an arcade business in certain areas as the overall costs of running machine outweigh the money they bring in. We saw that a short time ago when the State of Oklahoma decided that a 300% fee was a nice sounding, albeit completely arbitrary number to charge on coin-op games and went with that.
If you’re in the Atlanta area, you can find out more about the Plaza Theatre here.