Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Ultimate (So Far) History of Allied Leisure/Centuri - Part 2

Paddle Battle and Tennis Tourney - The Video Game Era Begins
In November of 1972, Atari released Pong and Allied engineers quickly purchased a copy of the game then had it shipped to their Florida factory so they could take a look[1].  

[Jack Pearson] Allied Leisure heard about Pong and we got a distributor in California to send us one and we paid him about twice what it cost him to buy it. We didn't know anything about solid-state games. We were all relay logic so we took it to a company in Chicago called URL and they more-or-less copied the circuitry and started making boards for it. We came out with Paddle Battle and I think we sold more than Atari did.
URL was Universal Research Laboratories, a contract electronics firm in Elk Grove Village, Illinois (in later years they would create a number of home and arcade video games and even have a video games division of their own).

[Troy Livingston] When Pong came out, we found out about it and somehow acquired one of the pong units …and literally took it apart and realized that it wasn’t made for the coin-op industry the electronics were just never going to survive coin-op…so I re-designed the power supply, the coin circuitry, and the power on the board and then worked with URL, who resigned the logic board, which had 76 or 77 7400-series TTL chips on it.

There were other design challenges as well. Since video monitors didn’t really exist at the time, Allied (like most other video game companies) had to turn to a different source for their displays.

[Troy Livingston] The first year Paddle Battle came out, we used to buy Hitachi and Zenith black and white TVs and maybe a few Motorolas. The salesperson for black and white televisions for one of the major chains came to our plant January 2nd and we bought his entire allotment for the year on January 2nd. The salesperson went away and said “That’s it for me, I’ve got my bonus and I’m done for the year” and he retired for the year…We took out the circuitry that made them a TV and all the tuner circuitry, went into the video amp circuit and made them into monitors and dropped them into the box and sent them out that way.

 After gutting the televisions of their electronic innards, Allied was left with thousands of TV tuners. Unable to find a  use for them or get rid of them, they ended up tossing them in a dumpster. Technical challenges or not, Paddle Battle proved a huge hit for Allied – the biggest hit, in fact, that the company ever had. 

[Troy Livingston] We had standing orders for months to fill semis full of games. The distributors said, “Just keep shipping truckloads until we tell you to stop.” I think we made 17,000 Paddle Battles and then we came out with a four-player, Tennis Tourney. I think we only sold about 4 or 5 thousand Tennis Tourneys and then it pooped out.

 Jack Pearson remembers that the game sold even more. 
[Jack Pearson] We sold 22,000 copies of Paddle Battle[2] and we followed it up with a 4-player called Tennis Tourney. Gene Lipkin was our sales manager at the time and Dave Braun told him that he would give him ten dollars[3] for each Paddle Battle he sold. When he didn’t get his money, he left and later became president of Atari.

            The son of coin-op veteran Sol Lipkin (who had a long career at American Shuffleboard and National Shuffleboard), Gene  Lipkin was one of the youngest sales execs the coin-op  industry had ever seen. He wasn't the only Allied sales exec to leave for Atari. A year or so after Lipkin moved to Atari in early 1975, Allied hired Joel Hochberg, who had worked in the industry since 1956 and was working 90-hour weeks in a broken arcade when Allied tabbed him.  He later joined Lipkin at Atari.

While Atari eventually got the best of Allied in the personnel department, in 1973 it was Allied who was getting the best of Atari by beating them on their own game. In fact, with a likely 17,000+ units sold, Allied may well have had the bestselling Pong clone of them all. In some ways, it isn't surprising that they were able to outproduce Atari. While Allied wasn't exactly a seasoned veteran, they had 4 1/2 years of coin-op experience under their belt at a time when Atari was only a few months removed from the days they had to struggle to make just 10 Pong units. Allied also had a much greater production capacity. This was probably a matter of necessity rather than choice. As practically the only coin-op company in Florida, Allied didn't have a network of suppliers ready at hand like there were in Chicago. Allied had to make everything itself.         

[Ron Halliburton] You have to understand that at that time we did everything onsite. We built transformers, we built cabinets, we did our own sheet metal, we did c&c stamping even back then – that required a great deal of people. We were probably up around 250-300 people at that time[4].

      Allied more than tripled the size of its facilities in 1973 and were sprawled out over 3 separate buildings: a 30,000-square-foot manufacturing, headquarters, and R&D facility; a 28,000-square-foot cabinet shop, and  a 38,000-sqaure-foot complex that housed silkscreening, fiberglass, a paint shop, and metal working (including a $30,000, 110-ton punch press).
[Jack Pearson] We had better production facilities [than Atari]. Back then, to us, a year was a long time because we were used to having to come up with a new game every three or four months and when you had to do tooling and everything else, it was a real burden. We [started producing the game] right after Atari and we had a better sales staff and a better factory. We got up to producing 150 a day. At one point we wouldn’t take an order if wasn’t a tractor-trailer-load full, about 40 games.

     Given their edge in manufacturing, it's no wonder that Allied was able to out-produce Atari, but how did they manage to top the sales of other veteran coin-op companies like Chicago Coin, Williams and Bally/Midway who produced Pong clones of their own. It may have been because they got to their game to market first.

[Jack Pearson] Our philosophy was that if you wanted to make any money you had to go out there and get it first and go like the devil while you've got it because someone else is going to be coming with it later. So put it out and go as fast as you can so that by the time the next guy copies it and gets into the market you will have your profit out of it. And that was the philosophy we all lived on.

While Allied only beat Midway to market by a month or so, that month may have been crucial.

[Jack Pearson] We were selling a ton of Paddle Battle and we had already designed Tennis Tourney. Since we had the money we could afford to stock inventory so we made a few hundred Tennis Tourney, boxed them up and kept them in the warehouse. We didn't tell anyone about it. We were going to wait until the sales on Paddle Battle dried up. Then Midway came out with their 2-player game. I think we were selling at $995 and they came in at $945 to try to get a piece of the action. So we dropped to $895, they dropped another $50, we dropped another $50 and it kept on until we got to, I think, $795. Now we'd already made our profit and Midway couldn't make any money selling at that price. Then we announced the 4-player and Hank Ross told us that they couldn't give their game away. That's an example of the marketing strategies we had in those days.
     In some ways it was a bit surprising that Allied was able to get a game to market so soon and build so many so quickly. In earlier years, they had been plagued with production delays. In 1972, Allied had never had more than one game in production at a time and  often had lags between one game in the next. For the entire month of April, their production line had sat idle - a potentially fatal situation for manufacturing company. In addition, they rarely brought a game back into production after it had stopped and usually kept little inventory on hand. In 1973 they had as many as four games in production at once and scheduled overruns and brought games back into production to meet renewed demand (Crack Shot, for instance, was brought back into production twice). In 1972, Allied had only been able to turn out 40 games a day. In 1973 they were cranking out 150.

Then, Allied scored another coup when they became one of the first companies on the market with a 4-player Pong game when they released Tennis Tourney in July of 1973.

[Ron Halliburton] Everybody was trying to catch up with everybody at that point. What we did was we built the boards and got the components in and I think we built 500 or 1000 of them and didn’t show them to anybody – blew out our Paddle Battle’s and then released this new 4-player that nobody knew anything about and it destroyed the 2-player market overnight and Hank Ross has never forgiven me for that even though we’ve been great buddies for a long, long time.

Ross wasn't the only one who was upset. Nolan Bushnell was livid that Allied had come out with their 4-player game two months before Atari released theirs (Pong Doubles).  In November Allied released its soccer game Super Soccer. The video game explosion had put all of Allied's other plans (including their full-scale entry into the pinball market) to the back burner. By January, 1974, they had six games in production at once and four were video games: Tennis Tourney, Super Soccer Ric-O-Chet, and Deluxe Soccer (the last two for export only[5]).

This chart appeared in Allied's 1973 Annual Report

     For Allied, the effects of the ball-and-paddle success were both immediate and impressive. From 1972 to 1973, sales increased more than sixfold from $1.5 million to $11.4 million and an $838,700 loss in 1972 turned into a $1.6 million profit in 1973. Allied made more money in 1973, in fact, than it had it all of its previous years combined. 

[1] The Pong Story website reports that Allied actually licensed the game from Atari, but other sources disagree.
[2] The different figures given by Pearson may be due to the fact that he is recalling the total number produced of Paddle Battle and Tennis Tourney combined.
[3] In an interview on, Lipkin recalls that he was promised $15 for each game sold
[4] Haliburton was referring to a time around 1974 here. Allied's annual reports show that they had about 250 employees at the end of  fiscal year 1973, up from 200 the year beofore.
[5] Allied also had an electromechanical game called Galaxy Raider in production, but no trace of it has turned up in the years since.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Ultimate (So Far) History of Allied Leisure/Centuri - Part 1

            Not all video game and coin-op companies were located in Silicon Valley or Chicago. Allied Leisure Industries was located in faraway Hialeah Florida. Today, not many people remember the name Allied Leisure (though a few people remember them by another name) but for a while, they appeared to be on their way to the top of the video game heap - only to literally crash and burn and then rise from the ashes.

All-Tech Industries

David Braun, 1970 - courtesy Billboard

David H. Braun had been in the coin-op industry since the 1950s and in the music industry even longer. In 1944 he and his brother Jules formed a record label called Deluxe in Linden, New Jersey and began recording artists like Billy Eckstine and the Four Blues. In 1947, they became one of the first labels to explore the burgeoning New Orleans R&B scene, recording a number of sides including Roy Brown's proto-rock-and-roll classic Rockin' at Midnight. That same year, their plant and warehouse burned down (it wouldn’t be the last time Braun had to deal with a devastating fire) and the Brauns sold half of their interest in Deluxe to King Records. Two years later they started a new label called Regal Records, which they liquidated in 1951. Finished with the record business, Dave started a new career in the coin-op business, working for a kiddie ride manufacturer in Linden named Mars Manufacturing. In 1952, he moved to Florida and co-founded All-Tech Industries, a manufacturer of kiddie rides, pool tables, and grip testers. In the early 60s, Braun became All-Tech's lead designer. In the early 1960s, he created a number of innovate machines that combined kiddie rides and games. In 1961's Indian Scout, kiddies could ride a galloping horse while using a six-shooter to gun down rampaging buffalo. Hi Way Patrol put tots in the role of a traffic cop, chasing down speeders in a miniature police car complete with flashing siren. A similar game, Cross Country Race was created by Braun and Harry Mabs (inventor of the pinball flipper). Braun wasn't All-Tech's only designer, however. Ron Haliburton was a tinkerer. Early on the Nashville engineer built one of the first $1/$5 bill changers in his garage. In the early 1960s, he created a prototype for a coin-operated slot car game. Word of his creation reached All-Tech, who hired him to work in their engineering department alongside Braun.

All-Tech's Indian Scout

Patent for All-Tech's Cross-Country Racer
by David Braun and Harry Mabs

Allied Leisure - the pre-Video Game Years (1968-1972) 

courtesy RePlay, 1976

By the late 1960s, Haliburton had risen to president of All-Tech when he and Braun decided to form their own company to build arcade games and to give Braun's son Bobby (who had cerebral palsy) something to do. In November of 1968, Haliburton and the Brauns' new company was incorporated as Allied Leisure Industries. The company, however, had been created six months earlier from the merger of other companies[1]. Like Bushnell, Dabney, and Alcorn, the Florida trio never intended to manufacture games. At the time, coin-op was still a closed industry and a group of outsiders, especially one from Florida, was likely to have a hard time breaking in. Instead, they planned to use their design skills to create prototypes for existing coin-op companies. When they began talking to other companies, however, they didn't care for the deals they were offered and when they saw how well their prototypes were received, they decided to build them themselves. Their first game, Monkey Bizz (1968) belied their kiddie-ride roots. The player used a metal hook to snag plastic monkeys from the bottom of a playfield. Next came Unscramble (October, 1969) where players tried to unscramble letters to form three-letter words (a five-letter version called Select-O-Matic followed in December). While their first three games were successful enough that Allied moved to a new 1,000 square-foot facility, they had still lost $79,000 in 1969 on modest sales of $415,000. Their next game put them on the coin-op map.

Wild Cycle

In early 1969, Chicago Coin released Drive Master one of a new breed of driving games that quickly became all the rage. In earlier driving games, like Southland Engineering's Time Trials (1963), the players drove tiny slot cars around a miniature track. Drive Master was different. The image of the track was stored on a large plastic disc and projected onto the playfield, where the player steered a plastic model car.


A number of similar games appeared in 1969, including Sega's Grand Prix, Kasco's Indy 500, and the biggest hit of them all, Chicago Coin's Speedway, which went on to sell 10,000 copies. In 1970, Allied Leisure decided to get into the act, but with a difference. Instead of a car, Wild Cycle (April, 1970) put the player in control of a tiny fluorescent motorcycle. As the player drove around the track, the handlebars vibrated, and when he crashed, they popped out at the player (perhaps one of the earliest "force feedback" controllers). The game even featured an 8-track tape deck that played music as they cruised. Chicago Coin answered with Motorcycle (October, 69), which blew air in the player's face. Despite the competition, Wild Cycle was Allied's most popular game yet. So popular, in fact, that two other manufacturers tried to buy Allied out. Allied decided to continue making games on their own. When their cabinet maker refused to continue working for them because he also worked for a competitor, Allied created its own woodworking shop. By this time the company had moved two more times before settling into a 40,000 square foot facility. They also had two other divisions turning out billiard supplies and consumer products (including a jogging machine called Master Jogger and  an exercise bike designed by Dave Braun)

            Next, Allied took to the skies with Sonic Fighter (June, 1970), another projection screen game in which the player shot down enemy fighters. Engineer Jack Pearson[2] explains how these games were created.  


[Jack Pearson] "What you did was you went to a local hobby shop and bought a 3D model of an airplane or whatever you wanted to shoot down and you painted up this model and took 35mm slides from all different angles and then built a projector. We’d go out and buy a projector lamp and build a mechanism for it ourselves and buy a lens. Then we’d have the projector mounted on a mechanism that we could move. So when we wanted to send an airplane across a screen, we’d turn this motor which would drive the projector and then turn the lamp on and it would show that picture going across the screen.
            You had a little PC board that had contacts on it and a wiper blade and as the projector moved, the wiper blade would move to different contacts on the projector. The gun would have the same kind of mechanism. So if the projector was on pin 2 and the gun was on pin 2 and the trigger was pulled, you’d get a [closed] circuit. Then we’d have a solenoid that would pull another slide in front of the projector with a picture of a red explosion. So the explosion would move the same way the airplane would have. It was difficult because you had to make everything yourself - the projectors, the guns and so forth"

Allied came back down to earth with two more projection driving games, the two-player Drag Racers (June, 1971), and Spin Out (October, 1971). On November 24, 1971, Allied went public, an unusual move for a coin-op company, but Allied did it to avoid having to rely on banks for financing.  In 1972 and early 1973 came the quiz game What-zit (February, 1972), two more air combat games, Crack Shot (November, 1972) and Rapid Fire (February, 1973), and an old-school driving game, Monte Carlo (1973?)[3]. Troy Livingston was VP of manufacturing during this period. He had come to Allied after a career that included a stint at NASA, where he'd designed motors, some of which ended up on the moon. At the 2005 pinball expo, Livingston told a humorous story about Rapid Fire and Crack Shot. At the, he was running a route on the side and Allied gave him some prototypes of the games to put out on test. When an ice cream store on the route closed down, Troy and a friend went to retrieve the prototypes, one of which came in a greyish cabinet that looked like a safe. Perhaps a little too much. As they carted the game out the back door, they were surprised to find themselves surrounded by five police cars.

The most unusual and innovative, product during these years came when Allied entered the pinball field with two games: Sea Hunt (May, 1972) and Spooksville (September, 1972). They may have been pinball games but they were anything but standard. The idea came when Allied's designers watched players bang and pound on regular pinball games and wondered “why not give them a machine they can shake without tilting it?” Their solution was something called shakerball. Shakerball was similar to regular pinball machines but the games were housed in a vertical cabinet with a smaller, free-floating playfield. The cabinet featured two large handles that the player gripped and shook causing the entire playfield to move up and down. Thumb buttons on the top of the handles activated the flippers. Despite its innovation, the novelty never really caught on, in part due to reliability problems, and shakerball remains a short-lived mutant offshoot of the pinball bloodline. Allied, however, was convinced that the concept could work and planned to enter the pinball market full scale in 1973, once they'd fixed the service issues. Then something happened that put all their plans on hold - Pong.

[1] Allied's first annual report in 1971 said that " Allied Leisure Industries, Inc. is the surviving company of successive mergers of affliliated companies. These mergers have been accounted for as poolings of interested and accordingly, the summary of earnings includes the operations of the company and its predecessors since inception on May 28, 1965."
[2] Note that Pearson didn't actually work on Sonic Fighter.
[3] Monte Carlo may have featured a ball bearing rather than a car. Allied's 1974 annual report includes a production schedule of games . It lists a game called Speed Ball as being in production duing March and April of 1973, but I have found no other reference to it and it does not appear in their list of games in the same annual report..

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Centuri/Allied Leisure Annual Report Goodies - Part 3: What Was Allied's First Cocktail Pin

The third thing I found interesting in Allied's reports was not a video game topic but a pinball one - Allied's cocktail pins and when they started making them? Most sources list Take Five, released in April, 1978, as Allied's first cocktail pin, but the annual reports/10ks show that they started building them MUCH earlier.


Most gamers who were around in the 1980s remember cocktail table video games, but a lot of them don't know that they made cocktail table pinball games as well. The heyday of cocktail pinball (if you could call it that) was brief - the vast majority of the games were released in 1978 and 1979. Companies that made cocktail pins in this period include Game Plan, Midway, Mirco Games and, of course, Allied Leisure Industries.

The concept wasn't entirely new. As I mentioned in a previous post, back in the 1930s, Rotor Table Games of New York had produced at least two cocktail table pinball games - Confucius [sic] Say and Cross Town. These appear to have been anomalies, however, and the next games didn't appear until late 1970s.


But which modern cocktail pinball game was the first? Did anyone beat Allied's Take Five out the door?

In March, 1978 (the month before Take Five was released), a company called Century Consolidated Industries released two cocktail pins: Circus Circus and Star Battle.

In April, 1978 (the same month as Take Five) The Valley Company released Spectra IV.

Around this time, Coffee-Mat Industries released Cosmic Wars and Star Battle (the latter is the same game as the one released by Century). The Internet Pinball Database doesn't list a date but notes that it was prior to December, 1978 because that is the earliest test date mentioned in documents they received from the designer. I'm not actually sure if the dates on IPMDB are normally release dates, but this seems to indicate that they sometimes use test dates.

In any event, I don't think these games came out until 1979.
Star Battle was show at the Ohio MAA show on May 11-12, 1979.

The introduction of Cosmic Wars was announced in the 11/15/79 issue of Play Meter.

As an aside, the 6/15/80 issue of Play Meter says that Coffee-Mat had recently "...displayed its latest cocktail table and a video game called Nimbus (another kind of reaction tester)...:
Despite their description, I don't think this was actually a video game. It might have been one of those reaction testers popular at the time that timed how quickly you pressed a button twice in succession. I think, however, that I did read the Coffee-Mat made a cocktail table video game back around 1974, but now I can't rind the article (I think it was in Vending Times or maybe Cashbox, but maybe I'm misremembering).

The first modern cocktail game listed in the Internet Pinball Machine Database is Fascination Ltd's The Entertainer, released in September, 1977. Fascination, however, didn't actually design the game. Which takes us back to Allied Leisure.


 The first reference I found to cocktail table pins from Allied was in their 1976 10K report. Allied had shutdown pinball production in June due to unexpected quality issues. The report mentions that they relaunched the pinball line in November, 1976 and then says that they "introduced a new concept in pinball games, i.e. a cocktail table version…". It is not clear however, if they started making cocktail pins in November, or some time later. The report also says that to date, Allied had made 300 "stand-up" pins and 800 cocktail pins. Note that the 10K report was created in spring of 1977, if not later so the 800 may include games made in early 1977.


Allied's 1977 report claims that they introduced a cocktail pin in April, 1977. This seems to conflict with the information in the 1976 report but as I mentioned, that report was created in spring, 1977 or later - possibly after April, 1977. OTOH, I don't think it was created TOO long after April (I suspect they had an SEC deadline they had to meet). OTOOH If they didn't produce their first cocktail pin until April, it's hard to see how they could have produced 800 by the time of the 10k report (unless it came up far later than normal).


The 1977 report reports that Allied had made ca 3,500 cocktail games to date.

 The big question is: What games were they talking about? I've never seen any reference to a cocktail pinball game with the Allied name in 1977, and certainly not in 1976.

The answer might be here:


The above is from their 1977 10k report. Allied did have an "exclusive distributorship arrangement" with Fascination Ltd (of Elk Grove Village, IL). Fascination was founded in August, 1973 as National Computer Systems Inc. and made one of the first (they claim it was THE first) cocktail table video game in October, 1973 (more on that in a later post).

In September, 1977 Fascination released The Entertainer - a music-themed cocktail pin featuring the likeness of Roy Clark of Hee Haw fame. The following articles are from the September 1977 issues of Play Meter and RePlay respectively (the guy to the right of Roy Clark is Bob Anderson of Fascination).



The game, however, was actually designed by Allied Leisure, as this article from the 12/77 Play Meter makes clear:
In early March, 1977, Allied filed for bankruptcy. They were discharged from bankruptcy in November, 1977. According to the article above, their deal with Fascination saved them from going under. Other accounts I've read seem to intimate that Allied was unhappy with their deal with Fascination (they didn't come right out and say so , I had to read between the lines - which is always dangerous). In addition, Allied had already released a Roy-Clark themed standard pinball called Super Picker earlier in 1977. They had inked the deal with Clark in late 1976. The driving force behind the idea was Allied's marketing director Arnold Fisher, who was likely hoping to reproduce Bally's success with licensed pins like Cap'n Fanastic and Tommy (he didn't).  Given this, it seems to me that Allied would have wanted to release The Entertainer under their own banner and probably ceded the rights to Fascination only reluctantly (though that is mere supposition on my part). In any event, they got out of their arrangement with Fascination in 1978 and started producing pins under their own name.

But if The Entertainer wasn't released until September, 1977 then what were the games Allied released before then?

Perusing my collection of RePlay and Play Meters, I found a few intriguing hints.

First, a report on the January, 1977 ATE show in London from the February, 1977 RePlay:


I've never seen any other reference to a "video pingame in a cocktail cabinet" from Allied. This sounds like a video version of pinball (like Exidy's TV Pinball) rather than a video/pin combination. There is a flyer for an Allied cocktail video game, but it has no date and I don't know if it was a pinball game (it appears to be a ball-and-paddle game)



Speaking of Chase, it appears to have been a very cool looking sit-down air combat video game:


It was mentioned in their 1977 10k report, which said they only made 200 (unless they also made an EM game with the same name at the same time, which seems doubtful). Don't ask me what X-11 was, though I suspect it was an EM game, not a video game.

But back to cocktail pins. Here's an even earlier mention from the June, 1976 Play Meter. This one is reporting on Allied's recent spring distributors meeting in Miami. If this wasn't an Allied-specific meeting, I'd think that maybe they were talking about Mirco's Spirit of '76 but they appear to be talking about an Allied "tennis and pin cocktail table" of the same name. Again, this may be a video pinball game in a cocktail cabinet and/or may be the game pictured in the flyer above.



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