AAMA Issues The “Fair Play Pledge” For Redemption Machine Operations

arcadehero May 5, 2017 17
AAMA Issues The “Fair Play Pledge” For Redemption Machine Operations

The American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) is not an organization that most gamers are familiar with; as their ‘About’ page states, “The American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) is an international non-profit trade organization representing the manufacturers, distributors, and part suppliers of the coin-operated amusement industry…Committees work with the Association staff to develop programs to promote and protect the industry.”

Not exactly edge-your-seat excitement for most but they still have played an important role behind-the-scenes when it comes to the arcade business. Players are familiar with one of their objectives – the green/yellow/red rating system was developed by them.

Now, the AAMA under the leadership of Pete Gustafson, has issued the “Fair Play Pledge”. This isn’t something that really affects the video game side of the business as it is aimed more at instant prize redemption machines that you find in arcades, grocery stores, restaurants, malls, etc. etc. (KeyMaster, Stacker, iCube, BarberCut).

The Pledge requires that manufacturers who are members of the AAMA adhere to creating games that “that through the application of skill, every player has an opportunity to win.” This was spawned by political efforts in California to punish amusement games that didn’t offer Winner Every Time/skill play. Scroll down for my commentary after the full press release.

Fair Play Pledge Press Release

(Click here for an online PDF version)

Contact: Tina Schwartz
Day Phone: (847) 290-9088
E-Mail: tschwartz@coin-op.org


Elk Grove Village, IL –May 4,2017– The American Amusement Machine Association’s Board of Directors has voted to adopt a Fair Play Pledge. AAMA’sExecutive Vice President, Pete Gustafson sent the below note to AAMA’s entire membership. It’s been made available as a press release.

To All AAMA Members,

I am extremely proud to share with you that today, your association has taken a stand that ensures all the games our members manufacturer, distribute, and operate provide an opportunity for players to win with every game played. Compliance with the Fair Play Pledge is now a requirement for membership in the American Amusement Machine Association.

What does this mean?

By adopting the Fair Play Pledge, the AAMA Board of Directors sends a message to the playing public that the games our members offer are fair – that through the application of skill, every player has an opportunity to win. No other industry association requires their members certify compliance to such a high standard making membership in AAMA something you should all be very proud of.

The genesis of the FPP goes back to 2013 when legislators in California proposed punitive regulations governing amusement games. This was our call to action. The leadership at AAMA realized our industry was vulnerable to overreaching legislation and/or regulation.

We needed a defensible position.

A conversation began that involved some our industries most progressive thought-leaders. Four years later, the final draft of the FPP was approved by a unanimous vote of AAMA’s BOD.

The FPP harkens back to the creation of AAMA’s Parental Advisory System. AAMA’s PAS grew out of legislative challenges to video game content. AAMA rightfully recognized this extremely serious threat had far reaching consequences. Working with what is now our Washington Lobbyist, Dentons, we were able to fend off these threats and create a rating system showing lawmakers we were capable of policing ourselves.

The FPP demonstrates the same willingness to self-regulate as the PAS did. I’m quite confident that like the PAS, the FPP will prove it’s worth the next time the content of one of our amusement games is challenged. It provides us with a “Drawer Statement” that succinctly states who we are and of equal or perhaps more importance, who we’re not.

I would be remiss without acknowledging all the people who selflessly contributed their talents, knowledge, passion and time in bringing the FPP to fruition. It’s a list of industry luminaries that includes… Jon Brady, Joe Camarota, David Cohen, Ralph Coppola, Frank Cosentino, Nick Farley, Chris Felix, Bob Geschine, Holly Hampton, Eugene Jarvis, Rick Kirby, Glen Kramer, John Schultz, Tina Schwartz, Al Kress, Sal Miranda, Chuck Peitz, Gaetan Philippon, Neal Rosenberg, Scott Shaffer,George Smith and Eric Vestraeten.

Were it not for this group of committed individuals, I wouldn’t be writing this today. The FPP represents what’s possible when people with integrity, character and a healthy sense of urgency set aside their biases and work together toward the common good. What they did is good and I assure you, of great benefit to every member of this association. So today, be proud of what you’re a part of. By being a member of AAMA, you can now say you stand for something truly decent.

Well done…


Fair Play Pledge “Purpose & Compliance”

Thanks to Kyle on Twitter for pushing to have me look into this. I received this PDF file which details the Pledge outside of the PR above; I initially overlooked it as I received the PR 3 or 4 times.

To copy & paste the text:

The Fair Play Pledge (FPP) is an initiative of the American Amusement Machine Association, (AAMA) that ensures the games AAMA member companies offer for sale or use in the United States meet a standard of performance that allows a player a fair chance of winning with every game played.

The criteria of the FPP include:
1. An opportunity exists that allows for players to win by the application of skill such that the player will have sufficient time to identify, recognize and react with every game play.
2. A player can improve with practice and experience.
3. The player’s input controls the outcome of the game.

All member companies are required to have an officer sign the FPP Attestation of Compliance indicating they understand the FPP policies and procedures and will comply with the criteria set forth. Each member company will implement the FPP and conduct an annual review of its compliance with the FPP.

Opinion/Commentary Time

The following opinion is not being expressed nor endorsed by the AAMA or any other trade organization. It is simply my own thoughts on instant prize redemption games from my observations over the years and from my business perspective

Those who know me have seen where I really don’t care too much for redemption. At my own arcade I do have a couple of instant redemption machines like this but I do not own them; I have two operators here who have installed the machines where they keep them stocked with prizes, maintain them and I get a percentage cut of what it makes every week. Against the grain of normal expectations, they never have been my #1 games, regardless the prizes inside. My newest video games take those spots so I get that the location is a bit of an anomaly. That said, some of the biggest headaches I’ve seen have come from these machines, where I get someone that puts in $60 or even $100, doesn’t win then begins to make a public scene despite the fact that I told them that it wasn’t a guaranteed win – something that is easily understandable after the first $1 goes through and you don’t get the prize (Yes, we’ve had multiple winners, some spent a few bucks but were pretty happy with their results). Most operators don’t have to deal with unhappy customers on the spot like that but where I’m a manned location, it comes with the territory. That said, it has been a while since we’ve had someone flipping out because they are too embarrassed to admit that they knew what they were getting into. The machines also have easier-to-win (i.e., less valuable) prizes inside which helps in this regard.

At the end of the day, I like games that challenge you and require skill, practice and so on to achieve the reward of a high score or satisfaction of completing the game using as few coins as possible. I think that pushes people to do better. Sure it’s just a video game. But that is why I have always found them far more satisfying than the ‘quick gratification’ that all kinds of redemption play offers.

In reality, I wouldn’t mind seeing video games also take the idea of requiring skill based play to heart as few new games can be “1cc’ed” anymore. That has made them less satisfying to me; at the same time they can earn really well and it’s futile to argue with a full cashbox. It’s where the culture has trended and changing that is far easier said than done. That could lead us to a tangent about game prices (to the operator, which are increasingly becoming silly) but we’ll save that for another day.

The Fair Play Pledge is a “defensible position” as the press release states and it should be interesting to see where this shakes out over the next few years. I get both sides of the issue although I’m admittedly less sympathetic towards people who assume that when you approach a game with a $500 gift card/iPad/GoPro sitting inside of it, that it would make any sense whatsoever for the machine to vend (not award) those out for a dollar every time you play. That wouldn’t be fair to the person shelling out the cash to offer the prize in the first place. But of course that isn’t considered by the sue-happy whiners; instead political winds tend to bend towards the chance of making a buck in the name of ‘doing something’ for a supposed crisis.

This is basic logic – there’s zero economic sense out of expecting high-end prizes to vend with little to no effort on the part of the player. It is impossible to sustain. You can’t make your money back on the prizes nor the cost of the machine itself (which go for $5k-$7k), then there’s maintenance and rent/location split costs. That’s why when you see a “Winner Every Time” machine, the prizes in it are going to be cheap.

I may not care too much for the machines but I can appreciate the creativity used in coming up with a machine that was able to offer redemption for better value prizes without being a high end vending machine.

What I see this boiling down to in the near future is that you are going to have a much harder time finding machines with decent value prizes in them. In the long run, I imagine a workaround will be developed where it is skill based but the goal will have to be very high to give out the big stuff. Perhaps a bullet hell video game with prize machine is in order…

What are your thoughts about this?


  1. Rex May 5, 2017 at 11:20 am - Reply

    At least as a consumer, I think your op-ed section is bang on

  2. Alfred May 5, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Holy crap, showing off the top prize from a Bullet Hell game would be quite the honor.

    • Steffen May 6, 2017 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      Just look at some of the achievements at Dariusburst on the PS4 – or browse the online highscore tables.

  3. Alfred May 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Imagine getting a prize for beating the boss in a fighting game. It is specifically for that character, so people know what you did.

    Then have it Neo Geo hard.

  4. Jdevy May 5, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Good to see rigged redemption games are soon going to be more rare now. I’d love to see more redemption games that play like Crossy Road Arcade or Snaky Tickets where skill is rewarded with extra time, tickets (prizes), and a high score.

  5. SaraAB87 May 5, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    This is like a catch 22, but I almost think being able to win small prizes more often might be something that will work. However you don’t have the enticement that the chance to win an xbox or other large electronic device brings. People do think you can win these items. In general its the idea that people want to win, as a consumer if I see a claw machine and the claw is clearly too weak to pick up the prizes or is rigged in some other way then I am not going to play that claw again even if its one I pass regularly, I will write it off as one I don’t want to play, however if I am given a clear opportunity to win at a claw, then I will return to the claw time and time again to try and win. Sure the operator may get my 50 cents or one play out of me, but if its a bad claw then I am writing it off and that claw will never see another quarter from me. Most consumers pass many claws or other redemption machines in their lifetime so there are choices out there. The general consumer does notice if a claw is rigged, especially with so much information about this out there now, I have seen this where I live. I would like to see a video game give out prizes depending on how much skill you have at it, I think that would be very interesting and would encourage the player to keep going at the game until they got better.

  6. Michael Kohne May 6, 2017 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Oh yea, high time for this. Things that look like skill games should be SKILL games, not slot machines.

    I know that’s going to cut the value of the prizes in the machines, and it’ll probably cut revenue, but if the machines can only make money by cheating, then they need to go.

  7. Steffen May 6, 2017 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    The point of the skilled based video games in your comment is pretty much spot on. With quite a few arcade games today I have the feeling that they can’t be beaten by skill alone.
    Deadstorm Pirates is a nice example. In quite a few scenes the game moves way too fast to play it with its fixed guns and you almost always get hit.
    It feels like the developers tested it only with a gaming mouse set to fast movement on their office desk but never with the real setup.

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