| If people are buying slot machines to satisfy an addiction, they are often buying pinball machines and old video games for a sentimental link to their youths.
While some people buy enough games to fill an entire game room, others buy just one that has special meaning to them, Kline said.
| Bucs lineman Paul Gruber says games entertain his
kids and guests.
Some of the first video games, like Pac-Man, Asteroid and Centipede, are good examples of games that have become recently popular for homeowners be- cause they bring back good memories of the '70s to ba- by boomers who were playing them in college and high school.
"People in their 40s are the ones who buy the old classic video games," Kline said. "Now that they have the money, they want to remember that" time in their lives.
Other customers tend to be younger men in search of pinball machines to help beat stress. "You spend eight hours at the office getting beat up on the phone, and you go home and you start beating up on the pinball machine," Gorsky said.
About 80 percent of Kline's pinball and arcade game customers are men. But most slot machine buyers are women.
Off the streets, in the rec room
Many game buyers are also parents.
In addition to getting to wallow in a little nostalgia of their own, many think of the machines as a good way to keep their teenagers off the streets and out of expensive arcades.
"The baby boomers' kids are teenagers now," said Kay Green, owner of Kay Green Design in Winter Park. Green has a set of 15-year-old twins. "And I don't want them down the street."
Green installs the machines in model homes she decorates across the South. She thinks it helps boost sales because it taps into the desire of Americans to cocoon.
"People are spending more time at home," said Green. "They are trying to bring into their home all the functions of the outside world."
Longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneer Paul Gruber doesn't get out as much anymore. For starters, it's tough to find a good babysitter.
So Gruber finds having a home game room is a good alternative. It entertains him, his two small children and guests.
Gruber had seen pinball machines and other arcade games in the homes of friends and decided he wanted some, too.
It took him some telephone calls, but he eventually found Kline's business. He bought a hard-to-get Corvette pinball machine, a video poker machine and a golf game.
Entertainment wasn't the only thing on his mind. "When I did it I wanted stuff that would hold its value." Gruber said. "Most of that stuff depreciates."
The games can be good investments, if you buy the right ones. Slot machines from the '30s are hot items now, said Gorsky of Games International. So are the first video games from the '70s.
Times Photo - Jim Stem
Andy Kline at Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals in Tampa finds baby boomers to be enthusiastic customers. "People in their 40s are the ones who buy the old classic video games," Kline said.
| Pinball machines that feature movie and television themes, such as Star Trek and the Addams Family, are popular. Kline has a hard time finding enough Corvette and Harley-Davidson pinball machines to meet demand among those who favor those cars and motorcycles.
Investing in collectibles can be risky business. What collectors want today might not be appealing in a few years. For instance, the old video games that were as passe as polyester a few years ago have nearly doubled in value, thanks to a wave of '70s nostalgia.
| Some popular games and their prices
- Corvette pinball machines - $3,600
- Harley-Davidson - $5,000
- Addams Family - $2,500
- Pac-Man - $600
- Asteroid - $600
- Air hockey - $$995
- Reproduction Bubbler Rockola jukebox - $6,000
No Cheap Hobby
While people decide to buy arcade-style games for a multitude of reasons, they all have one thing in common - disposable income.
Gorsky sells slot machines from $500 for a plain, newer model to $2,000 for some of the fancy and rarer antiques.
The average pinball machine goes for about $1,200, Kline said. And some of the most desi- rable machines, such as the Corvette or Harley- Davidson pinball machines, can fetch prices as high as $5,000, if he can find one.
"But I can find just about anything,"he said. "It might take a week, but I will get it."
| Demand for slot machines has created some shortages. Gorsky gets his used slot machines from Nevada casinos. He only shops there, rather than Atlantic City, because the low desert humidity is less likely to have gummed up the guts of a machine. Because of the boom in home sales, he's having trouble finding older slot machines. In- stead of buying them right off casino floors, now he has to go to casino warehouses to find them.
Demand among some customers grows as they seek new toys to complete home arcades.
Larry Santangelo of New Port Richey goes straight to Kline when he craves a new game for the '50s-style diner he and his wife have built on the lower floor of their stilt home.
The owner of several landscaping businesses has two large video games, a pinball machine and a variety of other games in his home.
Santangelo is expanding his space and has a few more items in mind, including a video game the 35-year-old played in junior high. "It's an airplane that flies through all these mazes and shoots at military stations. At the end you shoot a monster," he said.
Diane Vaughn figures she and her husband, Larry, will add more games in their three-story home in Tarpon Springs. They already have two slot machines and a poker table on their third floor. Down by the pool table, dart machine and a pinball machine. "We are pretty game-intense," she said. We are not through collecting, by no means."
Whatever they get next will have to be small "because we are running out of room," she said.
The couple is a bit competitive with each other. Pinball is Diane's game. "I was really good at pinball when I was in college...And I still beat my husband more than he beats me."