|SOUTH LAKE TAHOE|
Location: South Lake Tahoe (Stateline), NV, USA.
Report by Jonny O
To any kid who grew up in California and wasted his quarters at the local 7-11, the arcades of Las Vegas, Reno and South Lake Tahoe were the stuff of legend. When our parents wanted to do some gambling they armed us kids with enough quarters to ensure they didn't see us again anytime soon and we were unleashed on the casino's arcade. Once they'd lost enough money at one place they collected us and we moved on to the next casino/arcade combination. The process repeated until they were broke or it was time to lay waste to an unsuspecting buffet. Not surprisingly, I paid my own way through college.
These were magical kid moments. The arcades back then were huge, often multi-floor affairs, with so many games they often overflowed into other areas. The quarters seemed bottomless and we got to play the latest games that didn't appear for months or more at our hometown hangouts. Exotic and rare titles were only ever seen in these arcade “El Dorados” and the kids back home on the school playground would listen in rapt fascination at our trip reports.
Even though I wasn't much of a pinball player back then, I remember their presence well: whole walls lined with solid state pins like Space Invaders, Gorgar and Pinbot. I even played the gigantic Hercules on location, and once wondered if I would get in trouble if I got caught playing Playboy.
Twenty-five some-odd years later I'm back in South Tahoe. The day's skiing done, I determined I would tour the casinos on the strip in search of some pinball and maybe a little nostalgia.
There's good news and bad news. The good news is that all four major casinos at South Tahoe have arcades, and every one of them has pinball. This is particularly encouraging to an old school video gamer like myself because some had given up on game rooms altogether for a time. There was nothing more disheartening on those later kid trips than to arrive on the scene of a dark and boarded up game room.
Now the bad news. I have never seen pins in such uniformly deplorable shape. It was almost as if the heads of the four casinos held a secret meeting and agreed to stamp out pinball in South Tahoe with a siege on maintenance and repairs.
If you look very carefully at the picture below you can see a pinball game. But at least I finally found a game I could even play. The creaking mechanical sounds from the switches and pop bumpers gave the sensation I was forcing an old thoroughbred race horse who was way past his prime back out to the track, so I mercifully left this old nag to die in peace.
Next stop: The Horizon. Despite the lack of pinball, I was quite impressed by the size of the arcades at Harrah's, Horizon and Harveys.
Hey look, Horizon has a Lord of the Rings! And it looks clean! It looks good, it looks like I'll have to give this one a go...
The last stop was the Montbleu Casino. I didn’t have high hopes at this point, and yet I finally got a nice surprise.
Of all the arcades, Montbleu was the smallest, but wait, what's that on the far wall?
So there you have it. The pinball in South Lake Tahoe was quite a disappointment. However, at a minimum it seems to be often played. And South Tahoe offers plenty of other nice distractions.
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