COVID-19 restrictions crushing coin-operated game industry

Posted at 1:44 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 20:55:11-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Current COVID-19 restrictions in San Diego County are crushing the coin-operated game industry.

From manufacturers to those who place games in restaurants, business is almost non-existent. The industry is calling on the county and state to step in before the local businesses are no more.

Doug Hutton says his passion for coin-operated games started at a young age before blooming into a successful business 31 years later.

"Instead of putting all our money into the games, we should buy a game and I said that's the stupidest idea and suddenly here I am," Hutton said. "Three or four games in a restaurant and we share that revenue with the restaurant."

Then the moment that all but ended the game. California ordered restaurants to close indoor operations due to the spread of the coronavirus.

"The governor mandated all restaurants needed to be closed for dine ins so, of course, that means we're out of business too," Hutton said.

No quarters meant no money. No money meant no jobs for his five employees.

"It's been really hard. I mean first I had to lay them all off and they knew, I mean we had a meeting and I don't have a choice, there's no revenue," Hutton said.

Five months later, Hutton's business is in the same predicament.

For a moment, he thought he'd gotten a new life. Positive cases of COVID-19 were dropping and businesses reopened in San Diego and Southern California. Hutton said he had a safety plan ready.

"Maybe I don't want to wear a glove but I still want to sanitize, I mean that's not hard these are easy to come by. Our industry is selling them," says Hutton.

Then a resurgence of cases and indoor operations once again came to a stop. Hutton's world got put on tilt. With no signs of things letting up he worries the stay at home orders are driving the arcade game industry out business.

"I've got to feed my family. I've got to pay rent here," Hutton says. “There are thousands and thousands of people and it’s crushing the whole industry."

Hutton believes the only way to survive is by getting the government to allow businesses to get in the game before time runs out.

"The only way I won't come back is if I can't wait it out long enough," said Hutton.

In a statement to ABC 10News, San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said, in part, "Much like the clock winding down on a popular arcade game, the family entertainment industry is in a race against time to stay solvent. This unprecedented shutdown has dealt family entertainment centers a heavy blow with no relief in sight. I am hopeful that my fellow Supervisors will join me in supporting these businesses through the County’s Small Business Stimulus Grant Program."