Industry sector: Leisure

Amusement arcade: Buy an existing business

You might decide to buy an existing business rather than start your own amusement arcade from scratch. Buying a going concern can mean that:

  • the premises, machines and fittings are already in place
  • you shouldn't have to apply for planning permission for the arcade and it may make it easier to obtain the necessary premises licence or permit
  • mandatory gambling risk assessments have already been carried out
  • there are established customers
  • the business can generate income immediately
  • suppliers have been identified and relationships established with them
  • the business has a track record, which can help if you are looking for finance
  • staff are already in place

However, look critically at any business that you are interested in to make sure that the price you negotiate with the seller is a fair one. Try to establish why the business is for sale - for example, is the owner keen to retire or is there another personal reason for selling up.

Your market research into the sector as a whole and the locality in particular will help you to establish whether or not the owner is selling because he or she can no longer generate enough income from the business. This may not necessarily deter you - many business people are confident that they can turn a failing business around. The important thing is to have established the current position so that the price you pay for the business is not too high.

Other matters to consider include:

  • the state of the premises, machines and so on. Will you have to spend money refurbishing or replacing assets. Bear in mind that if the arcade has regular customers they are likely to want to see new machines periodically so try to check how long the existing machines have been in place - many arcades plan their machine buying around the review of stakes and prizes that takes place every three years
  • transferring/obtaining the necessary licences and permits (as required by gaming legislation)
  • is the existing owner prepared to give you some training after you take over, if you need it
  • existing staff rights
  • how to retain key personnel once you've taken over
  • does the business owe money that you will be responsible for
  • if you are paying for goodwill, to what extent does this depend on the skills and personality of the seller

Ask your accountant to look critically at the business accounts for the past three years and discuss with him or her the selling price in the light of what the accounts reveal. Make sure you budget for other professional fees such as legal fees and valuation and survey costs.