By Clyde Mooney – editor Australian Hotelier
Len Ainsworth, the founding father of Australian poker machines, yesterday turned 90 years of age.
Ainsworth, who celebrated his 90th last night with around 400 friends and family, this week recounted how he started out in the poker machines business 60 years ago.
He told TheShout he was running the family business making dental chairs when his talented engineer suggested there might be good money in poker machines.
"He told me of a chap making these machines 24 hours a day, seven days a week and he was still six months behind in his orders," Ainsworth said.
"I asked [my engineer] if he could do it, he said yes, so I borrowed a quid and said 'let's go!'"
Ainsworth recently made the news for his elevation in the Australian Rich 200 list, after good gains on the ASX by Ainsworth Gaming International and the industry-leading competitor he started back in 1953, Aristocrat.
He supports a number of charities and institutions, including the Sydney Children's Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital, where he recently underwent a heart valve replacement, and the University of New South Wales, where he is funding a new building for mechanical engineering.
At 90 Ainsworth is still very active and shows no signs of slowing down, still riding his Yamaha 350 motorcycle on the family property in Bowral.
"I've been riding motorcycles since I was old enough to get a licence," Ainsworth said. "But I don't ride them on the road anymore. It's not the motorcycles that are the problem, but the other drivers."