CEMA Issues Letter to Governor’s Office – 11/19/2020

California Entertainment Machine Association (CEMA) member businesses own and operate a variety of amusement type kiosk machines in thousands of restaurants, bars, stores, and malls across California. Juke boxes, video games, pinball machines, claw and other arcade type machines are not exclusive to Family Entertainment Center venues. These machines are largely owned and operated by our members, rather than the locations themselves. Frequently, these amusement kiosks are located adjacent to other nonessential kiosks, such as State Lottery machines, DVD rental machines (RedBox), and change redemption machines. Because there is no cleardelineation of what machines can operate during the pandemic, and which cannot, CEMA members have experienced local health officials and store managers determining that their machines must close while the adjacent machines remain open. We ask that guidelines be issued providing statewide uniformity on this issue.

As our industry and machines are not currently specifically addressed by state guidelines, we are subject to interpretation by location management and local health officials.

Often, our members equipment is tagged to be turned off as it sits right alongside a lottery kiosk or a DVD machine that is permitted to operate. Our operators are voluntarily taking all appropriate safety measures per CDC guidelines including: sterilizing our machines, placing signage discouraging gathering, physical barriers, disabling every other machine in arcade set-ups to encourage social distancing, and treating our machines with long-lasting bacteria and virus killing products that have been approved for contact areas. Additionally, dwell time at amusement kiosks is overwhelmingly below 1 minute where other kiosks such as DVD rental machines average 2.5 minutes, transactions average roughly 50 minutes between occurrences and players are nearly always with family if accompanied. CEMA members are more than willing to cooperate with sensible regulation, but uniformity is essential to the continued viability of these businesses.

The current lack of guidance is costing our members significant revenue and may signal an end to the viability of the industry as a whole. We ask for regulation so that this industry does not become another victim of the pandemic. We request guidelines addressing amusement type machines that allow operation under the same tier and guidelines as other kiosks. We ask that all non-essential kiosks receive the same protections and requirements under the law. There is no reasonable scientific explanation, or any governmental reasoning that is not arbitrary and capricious, that allows disparate treatment between a lottery machine and another amusement machine located right next to each other.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. While we understand this is not an immediate life or death issue, it is a serious issue to the hundreds of CEMA members and their continued livelihoods.

Sincerely,

Jim Wyatt
President, CEMA


CEMA issued the following press release on 10/28/2020:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The California Entertainment Machine Association opposes state’s arbitrary shutdown of its businesses, explores litigation

BREA, Calif.—October 28, 2020— The California Entertainment Machine Association (CEMA), a trade association representing owners of jukeboxes, pinball machines, arcade games and other currency-operated devices, announced today that it is exploring legal action challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration over coronavirus restraints that ban the public from using the devices in bars, restaurants and other public venues.

CEMA characterizes the state’s restrictions on the operation of its members’ equipment as “arbitrary and capricious.” The association points out:

• Many kiosks, another type of unattended device, are permitted to operate in the state while amusement machines have been forced to shut down.

• Wineries and vineyards are allowed to operate while breweries and bars have been forced to remain closed.

• The state’s family entertainment centers (FECs), which offer arcade games and other attractions, are in danger of permanent closures.

Statewide, the majority of kiosks, including those run by the California Lottery, continue to operate during the pandemic. In another example of the state’s inconsistent treatment of businesses, Redbox self-service entertainment rental and sales kiosks are permitted to operate. Lottery and Redbox kiosks, among others offering nonessential services, are permitted to operate while amusement and entertainment kiosks such as skill cranes, video games, jukeboxes are not. Furthermore, lottery and Redbox kiosks are often placed side-by-side with amusement and entertainment kiosks in retail locations, CEMA observed.

“CEMA members take all appropriate Covid-compliant safety measures and follow the Best Practices outlined by the Amusement and Music Operators Association, our Chicago-based national association, to provide a safe experience for our customers,” said CEMA president Jim Wyatt.

CEMA also takes exception to the state’s arbitrary treatment toward bars and breweries, noting that they are equally capable of following the same protocols that allow restaurants and wineries to operate. Bars and breweries are vital parts to local communities; the small businesspeople who run them must be allowed to continue to operate in the same manner in which restaurants and wineries do.

“Restaurants are permitted to open with limited occupancy while bars are not permitted to open under similar arrangement — and that is a completely capricious distinction.” Wyatt said.

It should be noted that FECs are able to follow all the same procedures as restaurants, and they are capable and ready to implement additional safety measures. These include turning off every other machine, rearranging floorplans to promote physical distancing and limiting attendance. Because many FECs are anchored to other businesses – shopping malls, pizzerias, family restaurants, skating rinks and bowling centers, etc. – and are not owned by the host sites, they will shutter permanently if steps to reopen them are not adopted swiftly.

“CEMA wants to underscore with categorical confidence that amusement and music equipment, along with family entertainment centers, are not a public safety risk during the Covid pandemic,” Wyatt said.

The CEMA board of directors is consulting with several law firms to explore forming an alliance with similarly situated industries and trade associations to pursue any measures available to preserve the livelihoods of its members and myriad small businesses they serve.

ABOUT CEMA: The California Entertainment Machine Association was established in 2013 to promote, preserve and protect the interests of owners and operators of amusements, music and other currency-activated equipment, as well as their suppliers and other constituents, in the state of California. CEMA is online at thecema.org and based at 2500 East Imperial Highway, Suite 147A-237, Brea, CA 92821.

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