(Topic ID: 78982)

Operating pins on location..grab the Novus & soldering iron


By mikedetroit

5 years ago



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  • 518 posts
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  • Latest reply 7 months ago by hocuslocus
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    There are 518 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 11.
    15
    #1 5 years ago

    I want to start an area where Pinsiders who operate games on location can talk shop and give advice to one another. This area could discuss how to approach potential locations, how to maintain change machines, what machines are performing well and other tips of the trade.

    #3 5 years ago

    This would be interesting for sure. I hope this club takes off.

    Mike

    #4 5 years ago

    Putting a wozle on location tomorrow! Cannot wait to play it myself. Its going right next to my rfm.

    #5 5 years ago

    Great idea!

    I will represent illiniland, an oasis of pinball in downstate Illinois, in what is generally a pinball desert:
    http://www.pinballmap.com/champaign

    -Mark

    #6 5 years ago

    I hope to join the club soon. Getting everything in order and trying to work out a single location to put 4-6 pins.

    #7 5 years ago

    I can't wait to start reading some of the stories from the wild.

    #8 5 years ago

    I wish I had the balls to try it. There is no place within 30 miles of my town and if you want to play decent games it's an hour and half away.

    #9 5 years ago
    Quoted from BOBCADE:

    I wish I had the balls to try it. There is no place within 30 miles of my town and if you want to play decent games it's an hour and half away.

    So what's stopping you from trying? Or at least giving it some serious thought and investigating?

    It sounds like you may have a great opportunity to fill the void in a niche market.

    -Mark

    #10 5 years ago
    Quoted from marcos:

    So what's stopping you from trying? Or at least giving it some serious thought and investigating?

    I am paying attention to the threads here gathering information so some day if the right situation presents I hope to jump in. There is one guy I personally know who does route vids to a local camp ground and a time share. I need to keep picking his brain also.

    #11 5 years ago

    This would be good to see how the hobby is doing in a public market. The wife and I want to open a place so bad since there is nowhere In Wyoming to really play. Just hard to get people to support it. If there would be liquor licenses available in the city it would go over really well.

    12
    #12 5 years ago

    I run a bar here locally, and am also "employed" by my coin op operator. The first thing I can tell you is that route pins take a monstrous amount of abuse, whether intentional or unintentional , so be prepared to spend a very large amount of time or money fixing your pins (I spent at least 16 hours last week rebuilding pop bumpers, flippers, and replacing switches on a few of my machines, coupled with the cost of parts and shipping that adds up). Secondly laws vary from state to state, and sometimes from county to county regarding permits, licenses, and tax collecting. Thirdly the type of pin on location directly affects how much you will earn per month per pin. For example my newer Stern pins make more per month than my classic Bally/Williams due to the fact that they are "New" and I have to charge .75 to 1.00 per game to pay them off before I can make a profit on them. I can only charge .50 per game for my "Old" pins because they are "OLD" and random players will not spend more on classic games in most cases. Finally, change machines are a bit pricey and prone to jams and breaking, if you are placing your pins in a bar make sure that the location knows to have extra quarters in the safe and tills to accommodate their players if you can't provide a changer (which is another $500 out of your pocket to keep filled).

    Now if you have the pins to spare, the time and energy, or the 8 to 20 grand to blow on 4 to 6 machines that might earn $200 a month each go for it, I'm a fan of exposing pinball to anyone and everyone that will drop a buck or two to try their luck/skill at the silver ball.

    Scared you off yet?

    If the answer is no, you are probably just crazy enough to make this work, and in that case good luck and good fortunes my friend...

    #13 5 years ago
    Quoted from buffaloatx:

    Now if you have the pins to spare, the time and energy, or the 8 to 20 grand to blow on 4 to 6 machines that might earn $200 a month each go for it

    So $200 per machine = $100 after the split with the location right.

    #14 5 years ago

    >>So $200 per machine = $100 after the split with the location right.

    Well that can be something you negotiate with the owner. If you really break down the costs associated with operating games at their location to them, you may be able to change that spilt. You may want to explain how they will sell extra drinks or food during the time and make it worth their wild. You may want to try to do a promotion such as a league nights. They may see the cost savings of not hiring out entertainment services such as trivia nights or a karaoke. If you replace it with league nights, they may be able to see the same return without the fee associated with hiring these events. It’s a win-win for both the bar and the operator.

    #15 5 years ago

    I've got TAF on location in an office, set on freeplay. They pay me monthly. It's been two months and I have to go over there about once every 10 days to fix something. They've put about 2500 plays on it in those two months! It's primarily being played by just 3 or 4 people (office has ~25).

    After the first month, they asked for a second machine - so I should be adding that in a few weeks.

    I'm mostly doing this because I'm too cheap to pay $2k+ for machines, and this way someone else can help fund my pinball hobby. I also know the guys in this office well, and we have a high degree of trust. It's 5 minutes from my house, and I have the keys so I can go in late on weekdays or anytime on the weekend to work on it - and play a few games of course, to make sure everything is in order.

    #16 5 years ago

    As I am looking at all of the logistics of doing this, I am quickly realizing that insurance is the biggest obstacle and cost associated with it. Uggghhhh.

    Liscence fees = approx $55 per game
    LLC creation = approx $150
    Insurance = approx $550
    Avg cost of 4 games = approx 15k

    Quite the investment to try and bring back pinball on route in my town...

    There are no insurance companies that are willing/able to quote a reasonable rate for a single location with 4 games in total. I am not looking to start a coin-op business. I just want to insure for a single place with 4 games in total. However, all companies seen to have these silly algorithms to determine a quote rather than crunching the real numbers to calcuate their risk

    Is there a creative yet legal way to CYA on this but not break the bank. I am getting quotes from $550 and up for a year of coverage.

    Has anyone does a lease agreement where the location owner is technically leasing your games for the cost of 50% of the coin drop? My thoughts are that this would allow the bar owners insurance policy to cover both the liability and the theft if a game was actually stolen. This would allow you, the pinball owner to be removed form liability possibly? am I crazy on this thinking? Just trying to look at all options and increase overall chance of this idea being worthwhile and not actually costing me money (breaking even would be fine since this is about the desire to create a route pinball location).

    #17 5 years ago

    Make sure you check into the license fees. They change from city to city. Some cities don't even have a fee and some are like $120 per game per year. Some base it off a yearly amount like a $240 fee for the first game and like $20 per additional games. It might be good to look in your area and call to see what surrounding cities charge.

    #18 5 years ago
    Quoted from BOBCADE:

    So $200 per machine = $100 after the split with the location right.

    Correct, also the cost of parts comes out of your pocket, not the locations.

    #19 5 years ago

    $550 a year for all machines, or each machine? It's a pain, but could be worse.

    #20 5 years ago
    Quoted from mikedetroit:

    >>So $200 per machine = $100 after the split with the location right.
    Well that can be something you negotiate with the owner. If you really break down the costs associated with operating games at their location to them, you may be able to change that spilt. You may want to explain how they will sell extra drinks or food during the time and make it worth their wild. You may want to try to do a promotion such as a league nights. They may see the cost savings of not hiring out entertainment services such as trivia nights or a karaoke. If you replace it with league nights, they may be able to see the same return without the fee associated with hiring these events. It’s a win-win for both the bar and the operator.

    The split can be negotiated, but some states have laws that regulate that as well, here in Texas the law is that the location can not be given more than 50%, but the operator can take as much as he wants if the location allows him to.

    #21 5 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    Avg cost of 4 games = approx 15k
    Quite the investment to try and bring back pinball on route in my town...

    In my experiences, you don't need brand new machines, or even close. You don't need "A" titles either. Machines I have operated which all earned well the first 2-3 months:
    Bride of Pinbot
    Doctor Who
    Doctor Dude

    All of these earned about the same as my X-Men LE. The general public had no clue X-Men was newer than Doctor Who.

    Find some 90's B or C titles and have fun!

    -Mark

    #22 5 years ago
    Quoted from buffaloatx:

    Finally, change machines are a bit pricey and prone to jams and breaking, if you are placing your pins in a bar make sure that the location knows to have extra quarters in the safe and tills to accommodate their players if you can't provide a changer (which is another $500 out of your pocket to keep filled).

    If you have a DMD era pin, get a bill acceptor for the coin door. You can often get them used on Ebay for $50-$100, depending on the model and if it takes more than just $1 bills. It quickly pays for itself.

    For the locations where I operate older pins that don't have places to install a bill acceptor on the coin door, they make sure to have extra quarters on hand.

    -Mark

    #23 5 years ago

    i'm in as well. I currently operate www.EastSidePinball.com in Minnesota. 7 Pinballs in one location and 1 in another location.

    #24 5 years ago
    Quoted from ryanwanger:

    I've got TAF on location in an office, set on freeplay. They pay me monthly. It's been two months and I have to go over there about once every 10 days to fix something. They've put about 2500 plays on it in those two months! It's primarily being played by just 3 or 4 people (office has ~25).
    After the first month, they asked for a second machine - so I should be adding that in a few weeks.
    I'm mostly doing this because I'm too cheap to pay $2k+ for machines, and this way someone else can help fund my pinball hobby.

    Man, I hope they are paying you good $ per month...that's a *lot* of wear on a machine, especially a pricey one like TAF. Even if you only charged $0.25/play, that's over $300/month!

    -Mark

    #25 5 years ago
    Quoted from policano:

    i'm in as well. I currently operate http://www.EastSidePinball.com in Minnesota. 7 Pinballs in one location and 1 in another location.

    I miss my Bally Game Show!

    There's a great example of operating a non-DMD "C" title!

    -Mark

    #26 5 years ago

    Would this club (sub-forum?) be private just to operators? That would encourage more discussion (I set my match percentages to 1%! d, but might not encourage more folks to become ops. Assuming Robin would go for something like that, how would you confirm a poster actually is an op? Many of us can vouch for each other, but what about the guys out in the boonies? Pics of a game in a location with the coin door open? If it's going to be a private forum, I'd like to know for sure that it's only ops there (and maybe a moderator or two).

    Quoted from marcos:

    In my experiences, you don't need brand new machines, or even close. You don't need "A" titles either.

    Yep. All you need is fun working games. Newer games help (earnings), but aren't required. I have a nice 35 year old Genie at a pizza parlor right now. 5 balls for 75 cents (it will house you one or two, no ballsaver). Folks love it.

    #27 5 years ago

    Definitely plan to spend a lot of time if your intent is to keep your pins in good working condition. The frequency of stuff breaking in a home environment is nowhere near what happens on location. Also keep in mind that while you can leave that busted flipper on the pin in your basement sit for a few weeks until you get around to it, you are going to have frustrated customers and location owners when your pins go down on location.

    #28 5 years ago
    Quoted from marcos:

    Man, I hope they are paying you good $ per month...that's a *lot* of wear on a machine, especially a pricey one like TAF. Even if you only charged $0.25/play, that's over $300/month!
    -Mark

    I know - I wasn't expecting that many plays. I'm getting $200 a month, and adding a second machine will absolutely help reduce the number of plays each machine is getting.

    If I charged per play, I'd be making significantly less money. Especially since, as I mentioned, most of the plays are coming from just a few people.

    #30 5 years ago

    So, How often does someone get 'busted' for no tax stamp sticker on a routed pin?

    The reason I ask is that I have a acquaintance that is a local op in Iowa, but has pins on location in Illinois, I noticed the Illinois pins and vids have expired stickers or no stickers.

    I mean who polices that stuff?

    #31 5 years ago
    Quoted from Three60in:

    Putting a wozle on location tomorrow! Cannot wait to play it myself. Its going right next to my rfm.

    Where is this located>? I wish to play it.

    #32 5 years ago
    Quoted from maddog14:

    So, How often does someone get 'busted' for no tax stamp sticker on a routed pin?

    It can vary from area to area. If a town needs money, they go looking for things like that.

    And many cities have stiff penalties. Triple fines, confiscate unlicensed equipment. Things like that.

    Quoted from maddog14:

    I mean who polices that stuff?

    Cities. Mad customers. Other ops. Lots of people.

    LTG : )

    #33 5 years ago
    Quoted from maddog14:

    So, How often does someone get 'busted' for no tax stamp sticker on a routed pin?
    The reason I ask is that I have a acquaintance that is a local op in Iowa, but has pins on location in Illinois, I noticed the Illinois pins and vids have expired stickers or no stickers.
    I mean who polices that stuff?

    If in a bar the liquor guy usually checks for the state/city stickers. Most of them are cool and will give a verbal warning.

    #34 5 years ago
    Quoted from LTG:

    And many cities have stiff penalties. Triple fines, confiscate unlicensed equipment. Things like that.

    Many cities are also reducing fees. A lot of these laws were written in the 80's when video games were proliferating. Cities are recognizing that the machines don't earn as much as they used to. Here's an example:

    http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/dyer/dyer-still-considering-decrease-in-pinball-machine-license-fee/article_3ca92a0a-8fb0-5245-8f74-19ddccd04510.html

    Most big cities (and counties) have everything listed online. For instance, by looking online, I found out that if you want to open a location in my town with more than 10 games, a police background check is needed. That one may be from the 70's.

    #35 5 years ago

    Locks/keys...there is a current post about this elsewhere:
    http://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/operators-whats-the-best-coin-door-lock-to-use-on-route

    but I thought I would ask here.

    What are you guys using? Single-bitted locks? Double-bitted locks? Keyed all the same or differently? Lock bars across the coin door?

    I have a little bit of everything right now, but would like to consolidate maybe to a few different types. I think it's a bad idea to key everything the same, in case you lose your keys or someone steals them.

    I don't have any lock bars, as all my locations are staffed and the machines are in clear view of the staff at all times.

    -Mark

    #36 5 years ago
    Quoted from marcos:

    I don't have any lock bars, as all my locations are staffed and the machines are in clear view of the staff at all times.
    -Mark

    The staff and their friends are typically the ones responsible for breaking in!

    #37 5 years ago
    Quoted from marcos:

    In my experiences, you don't need brand new machines, or even close. You don't need "A" titles either.
    Find some 90's B or C titles and have fun!
    -Mark

    100% true. The only caveat to this is: If you build up a good location by introducing pinball and another operator notices its success, they are more than likely to come along and offer newer equipment to the location to steal it out from under you. You may be forced to buy newer equipment to keep the location. In the end, there are often few loyalties out there when it comes to location owners. They want the best equipment for maximum profit. However, some may learn that the small time operator can offer far better "customer service" than the big guys. And most of the time, properly maintained older equip. is a better earner than a broken "new" game.

    #38 5 years ago
    Quoted from maddog14:

    So, How often does someone get 'busted' for no tax stamp sticker on a routed pin?

    Hard to say how often, but usually when they find one without the license, it is instantly confiscated and sold at auction.

    If competing ops see unlicensed equipment, they will 'call it in' .

    #39 5 years ago

    Also, if the Location gets audited by Uncle Sam, you might get a call. They could tell you how much your games make and you'd have to prove otherwise.

    #40 5 years ago

    Great thread. I had about 10 machines out for a number of years. It was a mix
    of classic vids and pins. If you can have a limited number of machines at each
    location (that was my situation) one vid and one pin worked really well. And
    as others have said, you don't need A list pins. In fact my highest and most
    consistant earners were early SS and EM pins. The trick is to price them right.
    A *ton* of time will be spent 'hardening' a machine for location use. Things
    like sticking coin mechs, balls stuck in slingshots, etc will drive new ops bananas
    at first.

    The biggest problems; vandalsim (a BIG problem in unsupervised locations),
    liability insurance (try to get location owner to carry this), and maintenence.
    It'll be a good education if nothing else. One bit of advice, do not put out nice
    machines. They will get abused. A lot. Oh yeah, if you can't fix your own
    machines do yourself a favor and open a taco stand or buy an ice cream van.
    Steve

    #41 5 years ago
    Quoted from CactusJack:

    The staff and their friends are typically the ones responsible for breaking in!

    Fortunately, I personally know everyone that works at my locations, and most of them are huge pinball fans...in some cases, practically begging me to bring machine(s) in. So far, no discrepancies from what the machines' audits say and what's in the cash box.

    I can see this as being an issue at some places, though!

    -Mark

    #42 5 years ago
    Quoted from CactusJack:

    100% true. The only caveat to this is: If you build up a good location by introducing pinball and another operator notices its success, they are more than likely to come along and offer newer equipment to the location to steal it out from under you. You may be forced to buy newer equipment to keep the location. In the end, there are often few loyalties out there when it comes to location owners. They want the best equipment for maximum profit. However, some may learn that the small time operator can offer far better "customer service" than the big guys. And most of the time, properly maintained older equip. is a better earner than a broken "new" game.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, pinball has been dead here for years. The only operator in the county stopped buying new pinball machines in 2006, and few of their techs are trained in anything but opening the coin door. Combine that with casino grade video slots being legalized and deployed in Illinois last year, and everything else they operate is now small potatoes. Even before the gambling machines were legal, pinball received the least amount of attention by far of all their equipment. Even the most basic things (cleaning) were completely ignored.

    Our league had few locations left to play, and I had machines...the solution was too obvious. In a way, I began operating out of necessity. (And I was also tired of hosting league at my house every other week!)

    My best earning locations probably make in a month what their better gambling locations make in a day, and the video gambling machines are basically maintenance free. So, I don't think they notice or care.

    You're totally right about the customer service part. I didn't even have to sell my locations on that...they already knew the service from the other guys was basically non-existent, and the quality of their remaining machines were shoddy at best. It's funny what having a clean machine, strong flippers, and not burnt out GI will do!

    -Mark

    1 week later
    #43 5 years ago

    Does anyone do a free play day for your location? If so, do you give the location keys to put credits on or do you personally put the games on free play?

    #44 5 years ago

    I know at the arcade bar I visited in Boulder CO, then do a free play night where the bar tender had keys to put credits on the games. I saw very quickly that she was dumping TONS of credits on and a good chunk of the people would come for the few hours of free play, not buy a single drink at the bar, and then left when the credits were gone. I am not sure if it helped that location with people coming back and spending coin drop at other times, but it sure seemed that what actually happened was people were concentrating their playing to the free play night and then not coming other times (at least the ones we talked to).

    #45 5 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    I know at the arcade bar I visited in Boulder CO, then do a free play night where the bar tender had keys to put credits on the games. I saw very quickly that she was dumping TONS of credits on and a good chunk of the people would come for the few hours of free play, not buy a single drink at the bar, and then left when the credits were gone. I am not sure if it helped that location with people coming back and spending coin drop at other times, but it sure seemed that what actually happened was people were concentrating their playing to the free play night and then not coming other times (at least the ones we talked to).

    They stopped doing this a few weeks ago. The machines were getting too much wear, and no one was making any money. I've mostly stopped playing there because the machines were never fully working (even on non-free nights).

    And I feel guilty about it, because their free pinball was one of the main drivers for my pinball obsession. Before that I was so bad that it was too expensive and not that much fun.

    #46 5 years ago
    Quoted from mikedetroit:

    Does anyone do a free play day for your location? If so, do you give the location keys to put credits on or do you personally put the games on free play?

    I do free play (in an office), and they pay monthly. However the machine is getting an insane amount of plays. I'm adding another machine which should distribute the wear a bit more. They have the keys so they can do minor things themselves (change volume, unstick balls).

    #47 5 years ago
    Quoted from mikedetroit:

    Does anyone do a free play day for your location?

    No way. Put games on location and try to maintain them, you'll quickly see why you won't consider this.

    #48 5 years ago

    I have 8 machines at the local barcade and so far it has been pretty good. Barcade's is where the money is at for locations hands down. For my location it is the theme that matters and not so much the game play (Street Fighter 2 is a great pin at this location). All my games are cleaned and waxed every 3 weeks and they all have beer gulps, glare guards, LEDs (no crazy rainbow GI colors) and I keep the downtime to a minimum. All games (arcade, skeeball, pins) at the location are 25 cents per play. One thing I want to point out is all these nice items we purchase for home use to spiff up our machines do not last in location play. I have LED blubs separating at the top of the base and bulb (all brands), multiple cliffy's (not all, just the ones with the double stick) coming un-stuck, superbands breaking after 2k plays, 'unbreakable' round peg protectors breaking, cliffy posts that can't get pounded in dirt getting pounded in dirt. I have all the games keyed the same using chicago ace round style locks. Games get mix of token and quarter play (depends on the day/specials) so the risk of someone breaking in for tokens is low since the. I did have the bars across the front but I recently took them off.

    Overall I am happy as our area only has one other quality place to play pinball and the other places with 1 pin are always dirty and play like crap because the OP that has most of them doesn't know how to work on their games which I don't understand.

    I would not be on board with any type of free play as the machines would get murdered.

    image-583.jpg
    image-635.jpg

    #49 5 years ago
    Quoted from Chrizg:

    I have 8 machines at the local barcade and so far it has been pretty good. Barcade's is where the money is at for locations hands down. For my location it is the theme that matters and not so much the game play (street fighter 2 is a great pin at this location). All my games are cleaned and waxed every 3 weeks and they all have beer gulps, glare guards, LEDs (no crazy rainbow GI colors) and I keep the downtime to a minimum. All games (arcade, skeeball, pins) at the location are 25 cents per play.

    25 cents a play for DMD games?? Why on earth would you want to set your games at that price point? Looks like you might be leaving money on the table to me.

    #50 5 years ago

    Just wanted to say thanks for starting this thread. Quite timely also since fellow pinsider Katoskave and myself have just started routing pins and classic vids in the Anchorage, AK area, so we'll definitely be looking for information from those of you more experienced with this than us. First location with a pin(The Shadow) is here:

    http://www.pinside.com/pinball/map/where-to-play/alaska-experience-theatre4th-ave-marketplace-1-anchorage-ak-united-states

    Several more locations in the works, so we hope to have many more out there very soon.

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