Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Centuri/Allied Leisure Annual Report Goodies - Part 2: The Leisure Time/Fascination Connection

A few months back, I posted about the "blue sky" ripoff artists of the early 80s like Potomac Mortgage, Fascination International, and Leisure Time Electronics. You can read the post for details, but basically these companies would sell overpriced, low-quality arcade games to the public at seminars and through want ads, promising enormous profits and offering warranties, location finding services etc. They would then fail to deliver the promised services or goods for months, or not deliver them at all and the games would make almost nothing. Numerous lawsuits were launched against these companies and they were investigated by the State of California and others.

One of the things I mentioned in my post was a claim that some of these games were made by Centuri. I was skeptical at the time, but in perusing Centuri's annual reports, I found that it's actually true.

The 1981 report, in fact, reveals that Centuri was actually sued by both Leisure Time and Fascination International, Inc..







Note that last line, where Centuri says they suspect the two were one and the same.
The 3/15/82 Play Meter (and other issues) confirm that Leisure Time and Fascination International, Inc. were in fact essentially the same company.



Centuri was also named as third party in a 1983 suit against Fascination.




This all raises a few questions.

1) As I will discuss in my next post, Allied Leisure (former name of Centuri) had an exclusive distribution arrangement with Fascination, Ltd. of Elk Grove Village, IL for cocktail table pins.
Are Fascination Ltd. and Fascination International, Inc. the same company?

It's not really clear.

Fascination Ltd. was formed in 1973 (in October, 1973 they released a cocktail video game, which is one of the contenders for the title "first cocktail video game".)

They went bankrupt in August, 1978.

After this, the two principals (Robert Anderson and Robert Runte) funneled the assets of Fascination Ltd. into another company called Astro Games, which also went bankrupt.
At the time of Fascination Ltd's decline, they were the subject of 167 lawsuits from people or companies who were unhappy with games they purchased because they couldn't obtain warranty service.


What about Fascination International, Inc.
Most sources say they were from Texas.




The 3/15/82 Play Meter reports that one investigator flew to Chicago to track down Leisure Time and Fascination International's original home office. The article even refers to Fascination as "Fascination Ltd." but that may have been a misprint - maybe they were thinking of the earlier company) So they apparently were at one time in the Chicago area.



One problem with connecting the two is that Fascination Ltd. went bankrupt in 1978 (though the principals could have started a new company with a similar name.

A bigger problem is that I have not found any personnel in common between the two companies. The principals of Fascination International were Joseph Cassioppi, William Thompson, and Eugene Hill - names I've never seen mentioned in connection with Fascination Ltd.
.

In the end, there's just not enough to connect the two companies other than a lot of coincidences.

2) The second question is, why was Centuri involved in such shady goings-on and what exactly were the games that Centuri made for Leisure Time and Fascination International? (Actually, that's two questions) The annual reports don't say but there are some intriguing possibilities (OK - wild ass guesses is a better term).
At the 1979 AMOA show, Allied Leisure showed four new video games.



From Play Meter:

 


The only one of these that I know was released was Clay Shoot, which was actually designed by Phillip Lieberman, who went on to program games for Pacific Novelty. Could the others be the games they pawned off on Leisure Time?

Here's another description of Space Bug:



Battlestar had been shown at the 1978 AMOA show:





Another possibility is Space Chip, which they also showed in 1978 (at the JAA) but I'm not positive that was a video game.

I have no idea if these were the same games sold by Leisure Time/Fascination (and maybe even Potomac). As I said, it's a total guess. It does make some sense, though.
Allied Leisure was bought out by the Koffman family in mid-1979 and renamed Centuri in 1980. At the time of the buyout, the company was in serious trouble. Plus, their games had long had a reputation for unreliability.

Again, we may never know if these games were the ones they sold to Leisure Time. Maybe one day a copy of Space Bug, Battlestar, Lunar Invasion, or Space Chip will show up

2 comments:

  1. There is a flyer for Space Chip here. It appears to be a water-filled electromechanical game.
    http://www.fungus-amungus.com/video_allied.html

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  2. PS. Be sure to ping the Centuri.net guy about all your discoveries. :)
    http://www.centuri.net/contact.htm

    ReplyDelete