(Thanks to Nick Lombardo of Arcade Hunters for the link)
This has been making the rounds in the arcade trade press for the past couple of days so it is probably worth a mention:
I was asked about what I think about this so after digging into the story, this sounds similar to what has happened in the past with states that suddenly ban something like pinball machines, coin pushers or whatever because some politicians see dollar signs and make a move without truly researching all of the potential economic effects that might have (or using common sense; or enjoying freedom). In the case of Disney here, it is a pre-emptive strike behavior. Redemption machines are not illegal in Florida but thanks to the politicians rushing to pass a bill while not getting into specifics with a law banning ‘internet cafés’, aka Florida’s Adult Arcades which operated in a strange psuedo-gambling way, Disney is afraid that the law could be re-interpreted to target prize redemption. Most venues have redemption as their bread-and-butter so this move will cause some ripple effects through Florida in the short-term.
Now I do not care much for redemption as you know if you have been a reader of this site for a long time. I’ve been called crazy a few times for not including redemption in my video arcade and in terms of talking about them on the site here, they don’t need my promotion anyways, with the games making money plenty on their own. The emotion that gets behind some people when they lose at redemption is usually what puts me off of it – when I worked a redemption desk I never had problems with the kids who were just happy to get whatever. It was the adults that often caused headaches over their incessant and immature whining, as though they were owed something by just showing up. That emotional irrationality sometimes crosses over to lawsuits when Mr. & Mrs. Derp don’t instantly win the iPad in the KeyMaster machine after they gave their kids $5 to put into it.
Despite those issues, redemption is a part of the arcade scene and most people do not cause a fuss over it since they have enough brain power to realize that this is for entertainment. As that article states, people have lost some good paying jobs over this, all because some politicians were either too cowardly or too stupid to realize that they left a lot of questions up in the air over this. As Nick Lombardo pointed out to me in our conversation about this, one bad after-effect this can have is the complete closure of all of the video arcades at Disney, depending upon what happens. To quote him directly (he has visited the arcade facilities at DisneyWorld many times):
It’s going to make a HUGE dent in a lot of the arcades. Most of Game Station is the prize counter and the giant rows of prize games. I’d love to see them add in more racers and traditional games but I think with Disney’s mentality they’ll just turn them into a coffee shop or something.
From personal experience in operating little to no redemption in my venue, I have found that people will play video games when that is all they have, then they realize that video games can be just as satisfying from an amusement perspective as the quick coin games and they typically last longer to boot. Hopefully Disney gives video only a decent chance to shine for a time as opposed to throwing in the towel.
It’s not the first not the last time something like this has happened with law, so its no big surprise. I know many pols don’t like to commit to specifics since those can cause icky problems when it comes time for them to ask for cash and votes but the effects of their ‘oversight’, if you want to call it that, are here to see. Fortunately for Disney, they didn’t have sheriffs with axes coming in and breaking the machines down to throw in a bon-fire. But I can imagine that is something they had in mind when they made the decision to pull everything like this; it was not a decision they would have made lightly.
It’s not over at this point and the law is changeable via the political processes that need to take place. The article mentions a politician promoting a law which will specifically exempt FECs like Disney so at least someone seems to understand that clarification is needed. In the meantime, until this gets resolved in can equate a shift that will mean more jobs lost, more fun denied all because something ‘had to be done’ about a problem that was questionable as to whether it was truly a menace and a detriment to society in the first place. Note that it wouldn’t just be the locations that are affected – this means manufacturers will sell less product which could lead to layoffs for their own staff. Florida has several manufacturer’s of redemption product including Bob’s Space Racers, Benchmark Games and Jennison Labs. I don’t see how putting people out of work across the spectrum of an established industry built around providing entertainment would be a beneficial thing for the economy in Florida. EDIT: As pointed out in the comments, among the companies that will be hit hardest by this are technicians. Tech work is often one of the most important but unsung parts of the industry, finding a tech can be a challenge at times but usually if there are arcades in an area, you can find a tech or techs. If the businesses fold up for what they fix, then that is going to have some harsh consequences as well.
The article quotes a lawyer where they equate prize redemption to gambling for kids, which is brought up every time the issue begins to tussel with the courts. I am not aware of any ruling coming against specific redemption product in recent times but it is a constant threat, with real economic consequences depending on how this all shakes out. This is why there are specific settings for cranes in California and New Jersey, which have to operate in a certain way to satisfy current state law.
As for a defense of redemption, if you have taken kids to a redemptioncade then you know that it usually is more a detriment to the gambling mentality once they learn that all that time and money spent on getting tickets only got them the lousy decoder ring and not the huge stuffed animal. In my own experience, my kids didn’t really care much about the prizes when we have visited CEC locations – they had more fun playing the games with their friends and collecting tickets themselves. They knew it was for fun, they didn’t need a lecture or a law to understand that. The prizes are forgotten about not even a couple of hours after the visit but the memories of playing remain. Even then, there are so many options vying for their attention that they have never asked to go back and keep playing until they get whatever prize it was they saw behind the counter. Working the redemption counter as a teenager, I don’t recall too many regulars or anyone we would notice was a total redemption addict. Personally when I was a kid, redemption/prizes never really entered into my brain, but I was obsessed with the video games and I ignored the redemption areas, aside from being annoyed that they were taking up space from awesome video games.
So we will have to see how things turn out for Florida, hopefully it is for the best. What are your thoughts about the issue?