(Topic ID: 177730)

Getting started as an operator questions

By Bricarus

4 years ago


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  • 23 posts
  • 16 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 4 years ago by stangbat
  • Topic is favorited by 7 Pinsiders

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    #1 4 years ago

    Any threads about getting started as an operator and putting games on location?

    Any advice?

    Looking to learn about protecting assets. Lock bars, insurance, cabinet reinforcement. Are those thing necessary?

    How do you handle the business side? Start a small business? Report the income on household taxes? Is it even income before the game pays for itself?

    What types of locations work out well? Which are duds? I have a line on a family fun place that has games, but no pins. Not sure how much play it would get. But there's a lot of family traffic there.

    I not looking to quit my day job. Just thinking I could eventually finance my hobby if I put the work in.

    #2 4 years ago
    Quoted from Bricarus:

    Any threads about getting started as an operator and putting games on location?
    Any advice?
    Looking to learn about protecting assets. Lock bars, insurance, cabinet reinforcement. Are those thing necessary?
    How do you handle the business side? Start a small business? Report the income on household taxes? Is it even income before the game pays for itself?
    What types of locations work out well? Which are duds? I have a line on a family fun place that has games, but no pins. Not sure how much play it would get. But there's a lot of family traffic there.
    I not looking to quit my day job. Just thinking I could eventually finance my hobby if I put the work in.

    If you were standing in front of me, I'd kick you in the nuts. It would be a lot less pain than what you're thinking of doing.

    Seriously.

    #3 4 years ago
    Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

    If you were standing in front of me, I'd kick you in the nuts. It would be a lot less pain than what you're thinking of doing.
    Seriously.

    Truer words have never been spoken.

    However for your questions, use the search, there is an "give me advice as a first time operator" thread opened about once a month around here. All of your questions and many many others have been covered many times.

    #4 4 years ago

    Hey go for it! I say the more operators the more games people get to play!

    #5 4 years ago

    These guys are hobby operators: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/the-coinbox-pinball-podcast
    Whysnow up in Wisconsin and Tsskinne from Indiana are also hobby operators.

    Do some searching on the forum, there is lots of info.

    #6 4 years ago

    I have posted on this a few times.

    Easier to just answer questions over the phone. Feel free to PM me your number and I can give you a buzz.

    Also, where are you located?
    What games do you plan to use?

    I am happy to give you my experience/insight.

    In short, it is rare that you will make money (I know some hobby operators in larger cities say they do well), but it is still LOTS of fun.

    #7 4 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    I have posted on this a few times.
    Easier to just answer questions over the phone. Feel free to PM me your number and I can give you a buzz.
    Also, where are you located?
    What games do you plan to use?
    I am happy to give you my experience/insight.
    In short, it is rare that you will make money (I know some hobby operators in larger cities say they do well), but it is still LOTS of fun.

    Be careful. Hilton just wants to kick you in the nuts over the phone.

    #8 4 years ago
    Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

    Be careful. Hilton just wants to kick you in the nuts over the phone.

    someone has to do it

    #9 4 years ago
    Quoted from Bricarus:

    Looking to learn about protecting assets.

    Get your own insurance.

    Quoted from Bricarus:

    cabinet reinforcement. Are those thing necessary?

    The harder you make it to break in, the more damage they'll do getting in.

    Quoted from Bricarus:

    How do you handle the business side?

    As a business. You're an operator or not. No in between like a hobby op.

    Quoted from Bricarus:

    What types of locations work out well?

    Ones you probably can't afford. Where you need to put in everything like pool tables, golden tee's, buck hunter's, juke box, darts, etc. etc.

    Quoted from Bricarus:

    I have a line on a family fun place that has games, but no pins.

    Operator already there. You'd be taking money from him. If he has a contract with the location, forget it. If he lets you in, a good chance your pins will be vandalized.

    Quoted from Bricarus:

    I not looking to quit my day job. Just thinking I could eventually finance my hobby if I put the work in.

    Put the work in. Like forget spending time with your family. You are on call 24/7. Burglars and fires don't have set hours. Just sitting down to dinner and location calls, haul your butt over there before they throw the game out back.

    Don't forget to go to city hall in the town you are going to do this in and check zoning ordinances, license requirements - may be on you, your business, location, each game. And don't try without. Some cities have huge fines and confiscate unlicensed equipment.

    I'm not telling you to not live your dream. Just learn as much as you can so you have a chance at success. And don't lose everything you have.

    Best wishes.

    LTG : )

    #10 4 years ago
    Quoted from LTG:

    Operator already there. You'd be taking money from him. If he has a contract with the location, forget it. If he lets you in, a good chance your pins will be vandalized.

    sorry, but LTG says this everytime and he is completely wrong IME.

    I know MANY hobby ops that share space with other arcade/vid/pool/traditional OPs that have zero interest in pinball. Often times it is mutually beneficial and works out just fine for both parties.

    #11 4 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    sorry, but LTG says this everytime and he is completely wrong IME.
    I know MANY hobby ops that share space with other arcade/vid/pool/traditional OPs that have zero interest in pinball. Often times it is mutually beneficial and works out just fine for both parties.

    I couldn't agree more, Hilton. Operating pins today isn't like it was in the old days. Same thing you do in WI happens here in MN.

    #12 4 years ago

    There's a fable about coffee shops. A guy is sitting there, enjoying a coffee, really digging the vibe and he says to himself "man, if I owned this place, I could sit here all the time!"

    Reality is a lot different. If you own it, you gotta actually RUN it. There's no time to actually sit there and enjoy it.

    #13 4 years ago

    If you are looking to make money, then do not op games. If you want to do it for fun, and get pinball out in the public then go for it. I don't think it will even finance your hobby. A family fun center will make you about $100 per month per game that you will have to split. Is $50 a month worth it ? When people say don't do it, it is legit advice.

    I have 38 games out on location with 10 of them at standard type of locations (small family arcade place, kids jumping place and indoor go carts) These are not worth the time it takes for me to go there, but at this point they are offsite storage that makes a little money.

    #14 4 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    sorry, but LTG says this everytime and he is completely wrong IME.

    That is why the OP has to do his homework. Your experience might not have run into it yet. IME I know ops that would do exactly as I posted.

    LTG : )

    #15 4 years ago
    Quoted from Chrizg:

    at this point they are offsite storage that makes a little money.

    lol, that's some outside the box thinking .

    #16 4 years ago
    Quoted from LTG:

    That is why the OP has to do his homework. Your experience might not have run into it yet. IME I know ops that would do exactly as I posted.
    LTG : )

    This is true, i have had good and bad experience sharing a location with someone else. Make sure you know the other op well.

    Quoted from frolic:

    lol, that's some outside the box thinking .

    I think most ops feel the same way, ive keep locations before that i wanted to pull out of, because i didnt have room for the games anywhere else and they would make me a couple of tanks of gas per month lol.

    #17 4 years ago
    Quoted from Chrizg:

    at this point they are offsite storage that makes a little money.

    and provides accelerated wear!

    #18 4 years ago

    I cant offer you any advice on the business side of operating as I'm not an OP. I do have a friend who has routed games for many, many years. From my discussions with him and my own personal observations I offer this:

    Lock bar - Unless it is a "nice" location where the game is very visible to staff, use one. Put a big assed secure looking lock on.
    Cabinet reinforcement - Not sure I've ever noticed this being done proactively. They were built to be on route after all....
    Locations - Hotels/Motels are nice. No need to rotate heavy games. So much easier having your customers rotate instead

    Last but not least - Unless specifically requested by the location, don't route pins unless you have the extra time and money to invest in repair/maintenance.

    SR

    #19 4 years ago

    I operated since 1984 and just have a couple locations left. When I pull from them I will be done. Once had 100 + games out. I wouldn't recommend operating solely pinballs now but that's just me. If you must get 100% from the cashbox. Operating anything coin operated nowadays is a pain in the ass for many reasons. Jr

    #20 4 years ago

    Thanks for the replies. Thanks to Whysnow for your phone offer. After talking to my family a little more, and doing some math. I don't think it's going to work for me at this time. I think it could be fun even if it weren't profitable. But, not at this stage in my life.

    I'll just keep packing my lunch and putting money aside toward the next pin.

    1 week later
    #21 4 years ago

    Curious if anyone's ever done this, or if there's a thread about it:

    Rather than put games out on location, I was thinking of starting a side business where someone can rent out 5 EMs from me for a birthday party or dinner party. I could see there being a demand for this and I'd charge a flat rate which would include delivery & set up, a certain number of hours for the games to be on-site at your party, and take-down/haul away. The price would include a refundable security deposit to protect me from damage to the games, and I'd work with a lawyer up-front to set up an LLC to protect me personally and also to put together a simple contract/agreement for customers to sign.

    Just something I'm noodling.

    #22 4 years ago
    Quoted from LTG:

    Get your own insurance.

    It probably is a good idea to have insurance, but I know many operators who do not.

    Quoted from LTG:

    The harder you make it to break in, the more damage they'll do getting in.

    I've never had a problem with break ins, but this is certainly very much dependent on where you operate. Either your pins are doing great and you're doing collections often, or they don't earn much and is it worth spending a lot of time to ensure you don't get $50 stolen? My main location has cameras, and it's not expensive to get a Dropcam if you're worried about it.

    Quoted from LTG:

    As a business. You're an operator or not. No in between like a hobby op.

    You don't need to create a separate entity and file taxes separately. It can go on your personal return. You list your income, expenses, and equipment (that gets depreciated). Something like Turbotax will walk you through it.

    Quoted from LTG:

    Where you need to put in everything like pool tables, golden tee's, buck hunter's, juke box, darts, etc. etc.

    Although I haven't operated any of that stuff, I'm 100% certain it's easier money than pinball. But then again, it's hard to take pride about owning a Golden Tee. It's not like you're ever going to play it.

    Quoted from LTG:

    Operator already there. You'd be taking money from him. If he has a contract with the location, forget it. If he lets you in, a good chance your pins will be vandalized.

    My two main locations are places where I took over the pins from an existing op because the location wanted a change. Those ops still kept doing the non-pins. I've never had any problems. YMMV.

    Quoted from LTG:

    Put the work in. Like forget spending time with your family. You are on call 24/7. Burglars and fires don't have set hours. Just sitting down to dinner and location calls, haul your butt over there before they throw the game out back.

    Sorry to take a harsh stance, but this is complete bull. Yes, put the work in. No, you are not on call 24/7. Don't sleep with your phone next to your head. Get a message about something being wrong? Go fix it as soon as is reasonable. Don't excuse yourself from your day job for a fix. Don't leave the dinner table...just wait till the kids go to bed.

    If you have a location that will throw your game out on the street if you're not there to fix it in an hour, then you don't want that location.

    Also, if you know your players, and have contact info on the machines - those are going to be your first point of contact. I have players turn a machine off all the time, and I'm there to fix it before the bar even knows anything was wrong.

    Quoted from LTG:

    Don't forget to go to city hall in the town you are going to do this in and check zoning ordinances, license requirements - may be on you, your business, location, each game. And don't try without. Some cities have huge fines and confiscate unlicensed equipment.

    This you should do. Some cities have requirements, others don't. Good to know what is required of you.

    There are 100 reasons not to try operating machines, but it's pretty easy to put one or two out and see if you enjoy the experience. No need to psych yourself out with all the possible bad outcomes. Sure, anything is possible, but none of the ops I talk to locally are having enough bad experiences to make them regret operating in the first place.

    #23 4 years ago
    Quoted from goldenboy232:

    Curious if anyone's ever done this, or if there's a thread about it:

    Rather than put games out on location, I was thinking of starting a side business where someone can rent out 5 EMs from me for a birthday party or dinner party.

    I know you couldn't get me to do it. And if I did nobody would want to pay me what I'd want. By the time I'd have transported, moved, set up, leveled, broken down, moved, and transported back 5 pins, I'd be saying never again. Then add in fixing any issues that come up. Someone would have to pay me at least $100 per pin. The more I think about it, I don't think I'd do it for that.

    I've broken down, transported, and set up a couple pins by myself a lot. I hate doing that. I've done 4 pins by myself. I've done 7 with an assistant. No way would I want to do this as a rental service.

    Video arcades are another story. They are heavy and cumbersome to move, especially if they have CRTs. But you wheel it in, plug it in and you're done. But I can't really see wanting to rent them when everyone has a Wii, XBox, Playstation, or phone.

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