Archive for October, 2010

Retro-gamers tap their inner pinball wizards

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 | Permalink

By Elinor Mills
Staff Writer, CNET News
BERKELEY, Calif.–The single, purple neon bulb and the wooden unicorn cut-out propped against the garage are the only clues that distinguish this home from all the others in this middle-class neighborhood.
Once inside, however, you find a low-ceilinged labyrinth where every nook and cranny is filled with colorful lights, whimsical tchotchkes, posters, toys and the unmistakable sounds of rubber flippers and bells emanating from dozens of vintage pinball machines.

Welcome to a shrine to Americana, or, as one visitor calls it, “Secret Pinball.”

Forget digital. This place is like an orgy–from before the solid-state era–of mechanical flippers, electromechanical bumpers, and old-fashioned lights and sounds. And all the machines, fit snugly side-by-side, are to be played for free.
Today’s enthusiasts aren’t necessarily luddites, but they are traditionalists, rejecting the high-tech gimmicks of video games and newer pinball tables in favor of the low-tech, handcrafted nature of decades-old machines.

“(Pinball machines) are mass produced now–cheap,” complained Hal Erickson, a regular at the secret pinball “arcade.” According to Erickson, today’s pinball makers “buy licenses and time releases to the crest of a fad, like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or ‘Nascar.’ They’ve gotten slicker, but the designs are not as creative and individual.”

There’s a huge difference in the way the game is played, too. “It’s really grueling, higher speed and intense movement…You can burn yourself out on new games,” said Erickson, who said he was ranked among the top pinball players in the world in the early 1990s. “Older games are more sane.”

Sure, the video game industry may be bigger than Hollywood these days. But a growing and undeniably hip group of retro-minded people are playing and collecting pinball machines in what experts say is an homage to the games of their youth. One sign of a pinball renaissance: The Pinball Hall of Fame, billed as the world’s only museum created solely to document the history of pinball, opened in Las Vegas in February. Also, for the first time ever, the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records will include pinball scores. The scores were recorded at the Pinball Hall of Fame last month.

Beyond the eye-hand coordination challenge, the appeal of pinball for many players is one of aesthetics. Erickson describes the game as “an industrial pop-culture art form.” Vintage machines are a reminder of a more innocent time, said Pinball Mac, who owns the machines. “Pinball mixes in translucent art and American icons–babes in bathing suits and all the other classic ’50s and ’60s images,” he said. “This is blue-collar art work.

Mac, who asked that his name and address remain confidential, has created a noncommercial arcade that houses about 50 working machines. He also has created what feels like an extension to his living room, providing comfy chairs, a stereo (playing a ’60s rock compilation when I last visited), nachos and beer. Visitors show up nearly every Friday night, as much for the company as the games.

Near the entrance inside of Secret Pinball is a basketball game where you can use an old-fashioned joystick to maneuver wooden “player” figures in semicircles to gather balls in their hands. You can turn and flip the balls into a basket while evading the opposing “player,” which mechanically moves back and forth trying to block the shot. The sound of metal ringing through hollow wood accompanies the shots.

There is also “Sky Raider,” which, with scantily clad female “astronauts” in bubble helmets, offers astral target practice. My personal favorite is “Road Racer,” a deconstruction of the addictive race car games of my youth. On this one, a drum with a painted-on roadway rotates slowly. Turning a steering wheel left and right moves a small toy car back and forth as the road winds and the drum turns. So simple, but surprisingly, not easy.

The majority of the games are traditional pinball machines with bright lights, metallic “pings,” etched glass and painted backdrops. Themes range from “The Queen of Diamonds” with tiara-sporting women and men smoking cigars to “El Dorado,” with gun-toting men on horseback amid desert cacti.

“Do you know how all this came about?” asked Graham Hale. Twenty years ago, Hale explained, he, Mac, and other antinuclear activist friends played pinball when they were not blocking test sites or getting arrested. “We would get some beer, play pinball and (gripe) about the government,” Hale said. “It was pinball therapy.” “Some people come down here to talk politics, art, theater. And others to play pinball,” said Tim Volz, a “pinhead,” as afficionados call themselves. “It’s a one-of-a-kind place.”

Mac’s oldest machines date from the late 1930s and early 1940s, before the golden age of pinball in the ’50s and ’60s. The older machines, called “shakers,” don’t have flippers, meaning they require more of a subtle bodily force to “shake” the machine, as opposed to quick fingers and electromagnetic velocity to propel the ball around.

“There’s this ancient art we call ‘the nudge’ and it’s pretty spooky stuff. If you nudge the right way, a certain energy will go into the ball,” said Mac, who often sports a floppy velvet court-jester hat on his head and a duck caller around his neck. “You have to nudge very subtly. Slap the side of the machine at the very instance (the ball) hits the bumper, and it ricochets off it,” he said. Nudging too hard triggers a “tilt” or “slam switch” mechanism that turns the game off.

Speaking of spooky, in the minds of these players, there seems to be a mystical undercurrent to pinball. Volz spoke about “electrical chi moving through the game,” and Erickson described a “zen awareness and in-the-moment quality of reacting to spontaneous situations.”

And then there’s Lucky Ju Ju Pinball, a commercial arcade inspired by Pinball Mac’s. “Ju ju” is defined as “an object used as a fetish, charm, amulet” and “the supernatural power ascribed to it,” on the arcade’s Web site. Lucky Ju Ju isn’t secret, but it’s practically hidden, tucked away in a strip mall behind a diner called “Tillies” and next to a church in Alameda, Calif., a small town across the bay from San Francisco. Where Mac’s attracts an older crowd for whom vintage pinball machines are a nostalgic childhood odyssey, Lucky Ju Ju’s customers are younger, a mix of goth and “rockabilly” hipsters to whom anything retro is in style.

Like a museum curator, Lucky Ju Ju Pinball owner Michael Schiess can discuss in historical and political detail the art that graces the backs of the more than two dozen pinball machines in his arcade. Adults can play at Lucky Ju Ju for as long as they want for $10 on Friday and Saturday nights. For example, the “Space Odyssey” pinball game from 1976 acknowledges the Soviet-American endeavor to dock together two vehicles in space. There is also the subversive art of Bally’s classic “Captain Fantastic” machine from the same year, featuring a disco-era Elton John performing for a crowd that is, among other things, groping, flipping and Nazi saluting.

“Every one of (those machines) is a little slice of history,” said Schiess, wearing a white cowboy hat with a feather in the band. “Every one of them has a story and is a reflection of history at that time.” Schiess creates “interactive kinetic art” out of old pinball parts and has taught classes on electricity and pinball engineering. He opened up a machine to show me what he was working on, lifting the face to reveal the guts–a mechanical board with a neat tangle of wires running between a 110-volt transformer, a score motor, and switches and relays that trigger the lights and sounds. Part of the proceeds from Lucky Ju Ju Pinball are going toward opening up the Neptune Beach Amusement Park, a pinball museum and educational center that will commemorate an early 20th-century amusement park in Alameda.

Schiess takes his pinball evangelizing on the road, too. He has installed six machines in a solar-powered Spartan Manor trailer and plans to pull it behind his 1959 El Camino or another car to the Pin-A-Go-Go Pinball Show, a gathering of “pinheads” in Dixon, Calif., scheduled for May 19 to 21.

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Amusement Expo 2011 Gains IAAPA Educational Programming Support

Thursday, October 21st, 2010 | Permalink

June 11, 2010

Today, leaders from the American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA), the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA), and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) jointly announced future plans for Amusement Expo 2011, which will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center March 1-3, 2011. The conference and trade show for the coin-operated amusement and family entertainment center industries is owned by AAMA and AMOA and managed by William T. Glasgow Inc. IAAPA will develop and produce an educational program for family entertainment center operators that will be scheduled in conjunction with Amusement Expo 2011. The association will also have a booth on the exhibit floor and host a social event at the show.

AAMA, AMOA, and IAAPA have jointly decided not to extend their 10-year joint venture agreement to produce Fun Expo International beyond the 2010 event which took place in March in Las Vegas.

Amusement Expo was produced for the first time in 2010. It was collocated with Fun Expo in Las Vegas. Approximately 2,500 people, including more than 1,000 buyers, participated in the comingled events. One hundred fifty (150) companies exhibited their goods and services on the trade show floor.

AAMA Board Chairman and Firestone Financial President and CEO David Cohen said, “We were very happy with Amusement Expo 2010. From the show floor to the seminars and networking events, the show fueled a renewed excitement about the future of our industry.” Continuing, he added, “Having a single spring event is the right thing for the exhibitors, the buyers, and the associations involved. It allows us to focus our energy and produce a successful, quality event that will grow in the years to come.”

“Amusement Expo 2010 exceeded our expectations and laid a great foundation on which we can build,” said AMOA President Gary Brewer, owner of Brewer Amusement Co. “We are pleased to have IAAPA’s support in providing education programs for an important group of attendees. We look forward to a bigger and better show in 2011.”

“Amusement Expo is an important event for the FEC industry, and we are pleased to offer IAAPA’s quality education program for FEC operators during the show,” said IAAPA President and CEO Charlie Bray.

Amusement Expo 2011 will take place concurrently with International Pizza Expo 2011. Additional information about Amusement Expo 2011 will be available at in the weeks ahead.

About AAMA

The American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) is an international nonprofit trade organization representing the manufacturers, distributors, and parts suppliers of the coin-operated amusement industry. AAMA was founded in 1981 by a small group of amusement coin-operated machine manufacturers concerned with the future of their industry. A board of directors, selected by its members, governs the AAMA. Committees work with the association staff to develop programs to promote and protect the industry. Members donate their time, effort, and expertise on a voluntary basis. For 30 years, AAMA has served its membership through legislative efforts, promotional arenas, foreign business development, and more.

About AMOA

The Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) is a diverse group of companies engaged in the coin-operated amusement industry. Membership includes operators who own, place, and service coin-activated equipment; manufacturers of coin-operated equipment, including games, jukeboxes, pool tables, dart boards, foosball, and other amusements; suppliers who provide parts or accessories, including monitors, bill changers, locks, etc.; distributors who market and distribute the coin-operated amusements; consultants; members of the recording industry; trade press; and others involved in various channels of the coin-activated equipment business.


IAAPA is the premier trade association for the attractions industry worldwide. Founded more than 90 years ago, IAAPA is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities and attractions worldwide and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the amusement industry. IAAPA represents more than 4,000 facility, supplier, and individual members from more than 90 countries. Member facilities include amusement/theme parks, waterparks, attractions, family entertainment centers, arcades, zoos, aquariums, museums, science centers, resorts, and casinos.

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Technology tools used in the equipment appraisal process

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 | Permalink

By MacDonald, Robert S
Publication: The Secured Lender
Date: Thursday, March 1 2001
Before examining the latest high-tech business toys and practices, it’s important to know where the appraisal process fits into the basic fundamentals of asset-based lending which focus on the three Cs of credit – character, capacity and collateral. Lenders use appraisers to help them evaluate collateral. Taking collateral provides the lender with a second way out of the loan in the event the forecasted cash flow does not materialize. Lenders need to know the value of the collateral under foreclosure and liquidation circumstances. They can avoid unpleasant surprises by asking appraisers about the problems and issues encountered on the appraisal assignment.

Valuation approaches

There are three general appraisal approaches to value: income, cost and market. The market approach to the appraised value of equipment for a loan is the most orthodox. Value under the market approach is determined by comparing the asset to similar assets that have been sold under circumstances consistent with the appraisal value concept (“comparable sales” or “comps.”).

The second best approach to value is cost. It should be used as a backup to the market approach or in circumstances where good comps. are not available. The income approach to value is rarely used in equipment-appraisal assignments for lenders. It can be used under unusual circumstances where a clearly defined income stream can be documented so that capitalization rates or present-value analysis can be applied, e.g., a merry-go-round at an amusement park or a large number of installed vending machines.

The equipment appraisal process

The two most important parts of the equipment appraisal process consist of:

* Gathering data in the field, e.g., listing the equipment with good asset descriptions that include: item, make, model, serial number and description of attachments, controls and capacities such as horsepower and size.

* Research consists of finding comparable sales of the subject equipment and, in some instances, contacting the equipment manufacturers.

Listing the equipment while on-site at the plant using modern equipment and technology

In the past, appraisers listed assets using pads and pens or dictation devices. Today, appraisers use digital writing devices or digital recording devices. In both cases, the information can be input into computers.

The Cross Digital Writing Pad is probably the most popular digital writing device in use today. The appraiser simply writes the equipment listing information onto a standard writing pad attached to the Cross device using a special pen stylus. The listing is then downloaded to a laptop computer by the appraiser while in the field.

Alternatively, appraisers can list equipment using a digital recording device and speech-recognition software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking 4.0 and the IBM ViaVoice. An excellent digital dictator is the Olympus DS150 which can record for more than an hour.

The dictation method, while much faster than the writing method, produces more “typos.” Since both methods produce many mistakes, the appraiser must do substantial proofreading while in the field. Even so, these listing methods have substantial advantages over the older methods because of the ease of transferring the equipment listing back to the appraisal office by using an e-mail attachment. The research can be started before the appraiser has left the plant. The appraiser can also do preliminary research at the plant by reviewing equipment data banks of auction prices that can be kept on a laptop’s hard drive.

Appraisers have been including photographs of major equipment items in their appraisal reports for years. Now these photographs can also be digital, which can be stored on the laptop, then uploaded to a corporate Intranet Web site or to a shared Web site like HotOffice, which functions in the same way. Personnel in the appraiser’s office can see the photos while the appraiser is still at the borrower’s plant. The appraiser need not wait for film development.

Sending photos to the Web site and the equipment list on an e-mail attachment also provides additional security. Appraisal lists and photos can be lost in transit and no appraiser wants to lose such data and be forced to a return trip and another listing of the plant equipment.

While in the field, appraisers take advantage of the same tech tools that other mobile business professionals are using, such as: mobile phones, pagers, global-position mapping devices and Palm devices or Blackberries. And the appraiser’s headquarters contains networked computers, printers, fax machines, high-speed modems, re-writeable CD ROMs, Zip drives, high-capacity disks, scanners and highspeed laser printers.

Access to comparable auction price information Appraisers must find good comps to reach accurate appraised values. Historically, only large auctioneer appraisal firms had access to actual recent auction sale prices of equipment. Today two large information sources have shaken this information loose from the old gatekeepers’ doors: the Internet and information intermediaries. These two sources have broadened the distribution of this comparable sales data. Many “click-and-brick” type auction companies now provide onsite auctions with simultaneous Internet access in real time. The results of these sales can be accessed by monitoring the auctions via the Internet.

More importantly and less well known are the auction sale data companies such as Top Bid and The Book. These companies send representatives to the auctions who then record the actual auction sales prices of each lot. These resellers of auction data then sell their data banks to both large and small appraisal firms. Today, all appraisal firms have access to the same auction sales results.

There are many other specialized used equipment guides issued such as: The Green Guide, NADA Guides, Journal of Chemical Education Equipment Buyers Guide, World-Wide Buyers’ Guide, Edmund’s Used Car Guide, Copier Blue Book, Computer, Facsimile, Typewriter Blue Book, Blue Book of Used IBM Main Frame Computers, Richardson’s Process Plant Construction Estimating Standards, Contractors Hot Line, Intertec Outdoor Power Equipment Blue Book.

Web auction sites of used-equipment dealers

B-to-B auction sites were launched several years ago by oldline, used-equipment dealers and cooperative used– equipment associations. These sites show used asking prices, which are reflective of indications of value above fair market value. Telephone calls to these dealers also provide good information on recent sales, which generally reflects the high end of the fair market value range. These sales are done under willing buyer-willing seller terms of sale, whereas the forced liquidation value concept and orderly liquidation value concept definitions have sale-under-duress concepts. In addition, much of the equipment owned by the dealer has been subject to substantial refurbishing and engine overhauls. Thus, information from these used– equipment dealers is subject to substantial downward adjustments by the appraiser.

Auction Web sites

These B-to-B Web sites have been launched with hundreds of millions of dollars from venture capital funds and substantial fanfare from the press. The auction process at these sites is similar to silent charity auctions. The biggest difference is the 30-to-90 day marketing period, where all the action tends to come at the last minute.

Analysis of these sites indicates that there are lots of listings and very few sales. There are indications that the owner/operators who list have unrealistically high price expectations and equipment dealers try to circumvent the sales process in an attempt to avoid the fees.

The click-and-brick approach used by traditional auction firms, which have merely added simultaneous Web broadcasting to their normal live auctions, has been much more successful than the B-to-B auction Web sites. The click-and-brick approach is reaching owner/operators who have been willing to pay premiums averaging 40 percent to 50 percent over the prices paid by the live auction bidders. The simultaneous broadcast also creates bigger draws with more bidders.

User-friendly report formats

Lenders should require their appraisers to provide them with a separate sort of the equipment values in descending order. This will allow the lender to focus on the most highly valued items of equipment collateral. The lender should also request the appraiser to provide the equipment listing in digital format by providing an e-mail attachment, a floppy disk, CD ROM, Iomega zip disk or access to an Intranet site where the list can be downloaded. The lender can also demand that the digital information be provided on a wide variety of software including: Excel, Lotus 123, Access, Approach, FoxPro, FileMaker, etc.

How lenders can get more from their appraisers in less time Typically, equipment-appraisal reports consist of a lot of boilerplate narratives followed by a thick listing of equipment with detailed descriptions sorted by room or area. Most readers have trouble wading through and absorbing all this data.

Lenders need some method of reshaping this data to a more manageable form. The 80/20 rule holds true in many areas of business and it applies to secured lending as well. Lenders frequently find that approximately 80 percent of the total collateral value resides in only 20 percent of the equipment items. Accordingly, the lender needs to focus attention on these high-value items that can easily be identified from the descending-value sort described above.

Questions the lender should ask the appraiser include: What problems did the appraiser encounter when valuing the collateral? Did the comparable sales research indicate that a broad active market for the equipment exists or only a shallow spotty market with very little sales activity? In regard to the high-value items: Did the appraiser speak with the equipment manufacturers? Was there any indication that the manufacturers’ new equipment will be technologically obsolete or seriously diminish the value of their older equipment? What about new planned equipment releases?

Are these equipment items special-purpose or general-purpose? Can the equipment be sold to users that will operate the equipment in an industry different from the one your borrower is in?

If the equipment is special-purpose, what are the industry prospects?

If the equipment is special-purpose, will cash flow and collateral value diminish concurrently?

What recommendations does your appraiser have regarding the liquidation of the equipment?

How long will it take to liquidate this equipment?

Will you prepare a liquidation sales and expense budget?

Robert S. MacDonald is an A.S.A. equipment appraiser and a graduate of Alfred University. He is a marketing representative for Plant & Machinery, Inc. and the owner-operator ofA VS, Corp., Stamford, CT.

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Bronson Urges Caution On Fair Rides

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 | Permalink

September 29, 2010

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is urging consumers to heed safety rules on fair rides now that the fall fair season is approaching. The majority of fair ride accidents are caused by patron error and many injuries can be avoided by following the rules posted at the ride locations.

The Department’s Bureau of Fair Ride Inspections is responsible for inspecting amusement rides at temporary events (fairs, carnivals and festivals) and permanent amusement facilities (go-kart parks and water parks) for structural and operational integrity. All traveling amusement rides receive permits on an annual basis but in addition, each amusement ride must be inspected every time it is set up and must pass inspection prior to being open to the public. Rides at most permanent amusement facilities are inspected and permitted twice each year. Florida has about 211 permanent amusement parks and more than 167 traveling amusement companies. The Department’s 15 ride inspectors performed over 9,500 amusement ride inspections in Florida last year.

Statistics show that historically, reported accidents were the result of patron error about 92 % of the time. The remaining 8 % were attributable to mechanical or operational problems, or the cause was undetermined. In addition, since 1997, the number of rides that failed the Bureau’s first inspection has dropped from approximately 60% to about 44%. Bronson believes the ride owners and operators are doing a better job of assembling, inspecting and maintaining the rides as a result of the stringent inspection requirements and scrutiny of the Department’s inspection program.

“Florida has one of the strictest fair ride safety programs in the nation,” Bronson said. “Our inspectors work hard to ensure the rides are erected properly and the equipment is in good working order but riders also need to be responsible and follow the rules and regulations to prevent accidents.”

Ride patrons should always observe cautionary instructions and consider physical limitations when riding any amusement ride. They should also pay special attention to size or age restrictions for children to ride on certain rides.

Ride inspectors receive refresher training at least twice each year to keep up to date on the latest inspection techniques, manufacturers’ bulletins and safety alerts. Department inspectors utilize laptop computers in the field as a resource to verify ride information on expiration of permits and insurance and inspection history. They use a comprehensive 26 point checklist to inspect carnival rides from top to bottom to ensure maximum public safety.

Fairs in Florida traditionally kick off during the fall season, and Bronson says now is the time to educate the public about the need to follow the safety rules. For more information about fair ride inspections, log on to the Division of Standard’s website at

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Thursday, October 7th, 2010 | Permalink

Current as of September 30, 2009

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is the state’s administrator for the Amusement Ride Safety Inspection and Insurance Act, Occupations Code Chapter 2151. To legally operate in Texas, an amusement ride owner/operator must file with TDI an insurance policy with certain minimum limits for bodily injury for persons using the ride and an annual amusement ride safety inspection certificate. The inspection is performed by an approved inspector of the insurance company. Rides meeting the requirements will be issued a TDI Amusement Ride Compliance Sticker (similar to an automobile safety inspection sticker), which will indicate the expiration date of the inspection certificate. The sticker should be affixed to a major component of each ride in a location visible to the ride participants.

The amusement ride owner/operator is required to provide a photocopy of the inspection certificate and the required insurance policy to any sponsor, lessor, landowner or other person responsible for amusement rides publicly used.

An amusement ride inspection certificate indicates the ride has met the standards required by the manufacturer, insurer, or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Recognition by the Department that the amusement ride has satisfied these standards is not an endorsement by the Department or a statement regarding the safe operation of the amusement ride.

What’s considered as an amusement ride?

Most mobile carnival rides
Most theme park rides
Most water park rides and devices
Amusement rides also include, but are not limited to the following:
consession go-karts, rock climbing walls, bungee jumps, mechanical bulls, trackless trains, continuous air flow inflatable rides/devices and various simulators.

What’s not considered as an amusement ride?

Non-mechanized playground equipment
Physical fitness/training devices or obstacle/ropes course equipment
Public conveyance devices
Coin operated rides
Small rides or devices that do not require the supervision or service of an operator
Live animal rides
Motor Sports

What should the public look for at a carnival or amusement ride?

“Look for the Sticker” – A compliance sticker should be attached to each ride, List of Current Stickers.
“Look for the Sign” – A sign is required to inform the public how to report (on-site) an amusement ride that appears to be unsafe or to report an amusement ride operator that appears to be violating the law. The sign is to be posted at the principal entrance or at the ticket booths.
Look for posted height/weight restrictions for riders on certain rides.

Who’s in charge?

A municipal, county or state law enforcement official may enter and inspect without notice at any time to ensure public safety and may immediately prohibit operation of an amusement ride for non-compliance and/or unsafe operation.
If requested by law enforcement an amusement ride owner/operator must make available the following documents for each ride:
A copy of the insurance policy
A copy of the inspection certificate
A daily self inspection log (mobile rides only)
An offense for non-compliance is a Class B misdemeanor.

What’s available on amusement rides from TDI?

Insurance policies/certificates
Annual inspection certificates
Injury reports – filed quarterly by the amusement ride owner/operator
Governmental action reports (police, judicial or government action taken in law forum) – filed quarterly by the amusement ride owner/operator
Schedule of operating locations and dates for mobile operations
Check with TDI to see if an amusement ride owner/operator is in compliance.
To view a list of Amusement Ride Policy Information

If you have any questions or need additional information, please call the Texas Department of Insurance at 512-322-3435 or fax to 512-305-7425.

Occupation Code, Subtitle D. Other Amusements and Entertainment, Chapter 2151. Regulation of Amusement Rides, Subchapter A. General Provisions

Texas Administrative Code, 28 TAC, Chapter Five, Subchapter J, Rules to Implement the Amusement Ride Safety Inspection and Insurance Act §5.9001 through 5.9014.

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