Date: 9th March, 2018

See updates at the bottom of this article for important new information

In December last year, Pinball News met with Pinball Expo co-organiser Rob Berk to discuss changes he wanted to make to the show.

Rob Berk at Pinball Expo
Rob Berk at Pinball Expo

There had been a feeling at the previous event held in October than significant changes needed to be made to prevent Expo shrinking due to reduced levels of support from vendors, exhibitors, manufacturers, machine donors, speakers and visitors.  Shows such as the Texas Pinball Festival, Pintastic, Replay FX, the NW Pinball Show, the Mid-West Gaming Classic and the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo have all grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and while Expo is still unrivalled in terms of having most of the pinball manufacturers and industry professionals on its doorstep, those other shows have been more than happy to fly in pinball guests to bolster their list of attractions while pinball manufacturers have been setting up in other parts of the US.

Pinball Expo has been run by Rob Berk and Mike Pacak since its inception.  Rob brought together the collectors and the fans while Mike brought in the manufacturers through his operator connections, but there has been a clear difference of opinion between the two over the future direction of the show.  Mike’s attitude in his dealings with vendors, exhibitors, machine donors and volunteers has also been cited as a major reason certain companies and individuals have been boycotting Expo.

Rob with Mike Pacak
Rob with Mike Pacak

Rob told Pinball News of his plans to split with Mike and set up his own show for 2018.  No firm details were available at the time but, with Expo 2018’s dates having been announced at the end of 2017’s show, we urged Rob to let everyone know as soon as possible in case people were planning flights or hotel accommodation.  We put an advisory on our Diary listing for Pinball Expo warning of a possible date change.

Now Rob has given more details, with his show being called Pinball Palooza and provisional dates set for one month earlier than the previously-announced Pinball Expo dates.  Pinball Palooza is planned for 12th-15th September, 2018, and the venue is expected to be at the Convention Center in the north-western Chicago suburb of Schaumburg.

While Rob told Pinball News he believes he owns the Pinball Expo name, he didn’t want any argument over brand ownership to delay the announcement and planning for his new show, hence the new Pinball Palooza name.  Meanwhile, Mike has stated that he will go ahead with Pinball Expo – or a differently-named show – on the original dates at the Expo host hotel, the Westin in Wheeling, working with his son Lonnie.  He said he thought it was unfair to visitors to change dates or venue at this late stage.

Pinball News was also consulted about issues with the existing Pinball Expo format, how the seminar schedule could be boosted, what could be done to bring the boycotters back on board, and what new features could be added to help grow the show.

UPDATE 1

Mike Pacak has confirmed that he will be holding his show on the original dates in 2018, and is also committed to booking the Westin for the show for 2019.

In an upbeat  e-mail to attendees, supporters and vendors, Mike said he had received a lot of support from vendors and attendees.  Here’s his message:

To all past, present and future Pinball Expo vendors and attendees:
As many of you may have heard, Rob Berk and I have parted ways after 33 years of putting on the Pinball Expo. Rob decided that he no longer wanted to be a partner and chose to go his own separate way. This decision was completely of his own choosing and wasn’t brought up for any type of discussion. 
Because of this change, I just wanted to clear up any confusion there may be on the status of the show. In our separation agreement we both have the right to do a show. There WILL be a pinball show taking place, as advertised in the past, at the Westin Hotel in Wheeling, IL on Oct 17-21, 2018. These dates were planned and set for two years already. 
Contrary to what you may have heard about this show, people are NOT “jumping ship.” Many have already planned their vacations and booked their travel to Chicago for this. Contracts with the hotel are in place for both 2018 and 2019. All of the vendors and attendees I have spoken with so far have expressed their interest and commitment to continuing the show as planned. For those wondering if there will there be a change to the name of the show, there will be. The new name has yet to be determined but will be announced shortly. 
In light of the recent events, changes are in the works for those involved with organization of the show. My son Lonnie Mihin, who ran the game hall last year and who has been a part of the Pinball Expo since it’s inception, is going to be taking on a greater role in the planning and execution of the show. I am also currently in talks with several other’s who are interested in becoming a part of the show. A new website with more information detailing this will be available soon. 
The changes that are being implemented will ultimately help in achieving the goal of making a bigger, better and much smoother running show for everyone.  In closing, I would like to thank you all for the many years of support that you have shown and I look forward to seeing you all in October.

 

With regard to the use of the name, Rob Berk has confirmed that he now has the rights to use Pinball Expo for his show.  It is understood Rob paid Mike for the use of the Pinball Expo name – a title he first coined in 1984 – but it is not clear if the September 2017 show will use it or the previously-announced Pinball Palooza name.

At the time of writing, the Pinball Expo website shows the details for the planned October show in Wheeling.  Meanwhile the Pinball Palooza website , which is owned by Rob, only contains a holding page from the domain host.

UPDATE 2

As a result of recent changes detailed in our latest report here, Pinball Expo is now back on at the original hotel – the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling – on the original dates of October 17th-21st.

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2 Comments

  1. Franklin D Rock

    March 8, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    As I said back in the day, been to one of these ‘power trip’ clown posse shows, you have been to them all. Rob is an ‘OK’ guy, but that doesn’t excuse his attitude. Mike is a total douche bag, and everyone that has ever met him knows it.

    Reply

  2. mike pacak

    March 13, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    There will be a show at the westin on dates shown before its unfair to change dates this late in the year \it will be very similar to past expos

    Reply

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