Date: 3rd April, 2018

After weeks of wrangling between the lawyers representing Pinball Expo co-founders Rob Berk and Mike Pacak, Pinball News can reveal a number of developments.

Rob Berk & Mike Pacak
Rob Berk & Mike Pacak

Firstly, Rob Berk is now the owner of the Pinball Expo name, assets, liabilities and contractual obligations.  He has made an agreement with Mike Pacak to buy all rights to the Pinball Expo name, although completion of that buy-out won’t be finaised for a couple of years and there remain a number of points of disagreement.

In the meantime, the Westin North Shore hotel in Wheeling – the home of Pinball Expo since 2008 and one of those contractual obligations in the name of Pinball Expo – has re-drawn the contract for this year’s show in Rob Berk’s sole name.

The Westin North Shore hotel - home of Pinball Expo since 2008
The Westin North Shore hotel – home of Pinball Expo since 2008

That means, according to Rob, that Pinball Expo is back, both in name and at the originally-planned location of the Westin on the original dates of October 17th-21st, 2018.  He will no longer hold his previously-announced show called Pinball Palooza at Schaumburg and says he has plans to make Pinball Expo 2018 bigger and better than ever.

To do this, he has enlisted Rob Craig to help with several aspects of the show including the games hall, David Fix is working on the exhibit hall, George Gomez – Stern’s Chief Creative Officer – is confirmed as the banquet speaker, and Rob says that for the first time Pinball Expo has booked all the hotel’s exhibit space – an additional 5,000 sq ft – so he intends to expand all aspects starting with a larger game room and extended exhibit hall.  He also told us there will be a Stern Pinball factory tour as in previous years.

While Rob is pushing ahead with his plans, the dispute between Rob and Mike is far from concluded.  Mike had already announced his intention to hold a show at the Westin on the same dates, taking over the contract he signed on behalf of Pinball Expo for the hotel, with Rob announcing he was holding his a month earlier in Schaumburg.  Now Rob has signed a new contract with the Westin for the dates Mike intended to use, it is unclear where that leaves Mike and his planned – and as yet unnamed – show.  Rob told Pinball News that the hotel holds him responsible for fulfilling the contract and liable for severe penalties if he cancels, so he had no option but to hold Pinball Expo there as originally planned.  He told us he was able to cancel the planned venue in Schaumburg without any penalty.

While the acrimony between the two continues, it seems Pinball Expo will indeed be held at the Westin Chicago North Shore on October 17th-21st, 2108 with Rob Berk in sole charge.  Rob told Pinball News that this is officially set in stone now that he holds the contract with the hotel.  It will, he said, have “more vendors, more games, more bang for the buck.

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  1. Franklin D Rock

    5th April, 2018 at 1:01am

    Good luck with all the other shows going on and growing, having more success. Cleaning up EXPO after 10+ years of absolutely Mike-driven spiral to the abyss, Expo has a LONG recovery period in pinball’s ICU. Good luck, its going to be a HUGE crawl up that hill to get folks to come back to EXPO.


  2. Jim Burrill

    6th April, 2018 at 4:04pm

    I’m so glad that Expo will continue and looking forward to the additional space. Expo is the only show I get to play all the pinball machines I want to, because of the number of hours the halls are open, and that with the overnight hours I can walk right up to new and A-list games and play until I’ve mastered them.
    Recent years Expo halls game halls have been open 54 hours. not including Sunday.
    Even the drop in game count in recent years, at least we had plenty time to play them. But I fondly recall the halls at the Ramada in 1993 with 150-200 games and 16 NIB games, and with the extra space this year it looks like Expo, like the industry and hobby, will rise again.


  3. John

    7th April, 2018 at 12:31pm

    It’s about time that this show is getting a reboot. Even the smaller shows in Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN had more machines to play than this show. Also, the pricing structure, empty exhibit space, stale seminars were a mess for the several years I attended. Eventually stopped going like other hobbyists.


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