Gambling, Pingames & the Shifting Sands of Manufacturer Perspectives

Nicholas Baldridge, Steven Doellefeld, & Dennis Kriesel


While conducting research on 1960s Bally Chief Designer Ted Zale, one of the authors had an off-the-cuff conversation with one of the eminent historians of pinball. There’s a gap in Zale’s work history from the closing of Genco in the summer of 1958 until he shows up at Bally in mid-1962.

Wrestling with where he might have been during those four years, the author posited that perhaps he had spent a stint at Gottlieb.  The historian scoffed, and noted that while some of the other manufacturers had employees that moved from company to company, Gottlieb folks tended to stick to themselves, having little interaction with the other companies. Pressed for more detail, the historian admitted that he didn’t really know why, just that it was that way.

Anyone who has even a passing interest in pinball history is likely aware of the game being banned for gambling purposes, and even banned entirely in certain jurisdictions. In this article, we will give a brief rundown of that history — acknowledging that there are other sources that are definitive references on the matter. We will also break new ground, documenting the schism that existed between Gottlieb and the other companies, and how that in-fighting related to the gambling and jurisdictional bans on pinball.


Looking at pinball through a modern lens, it is hard to grasp the scale of the popularity of the game in its heyday. In 1936, for example, there were 7,500 pinball machines on location in Washington DC alone1.  Given that the population of DC at that time was a little over 600,000, that is a ratio of about one machine for every 84 residents, or about 110 machines per square mile!

Gambling and various pingames have gone hand-in-hand for much of the history of the product. While modern pinball is broadly recognized as a game of skill, the lineage of pingames is one of winning money, not high scores, and as the industry matured, pressure mounted for regulation to counter the negative fallout – perceived or real – of the games’ expansion to more and more public venues.

As times changed, the views within the industry changed as well, on a company-by-company basis. What was seen as acceptable, be it inside the industry or out, ended up depending on the type of game and what its goals were, with games specifically designed around gambling often being the subject of prohibitions, licensure, or outright bans.

It was not until 1936 that Genco came up with a modification to the coin chute whereby:

a player who made a sufficient score could be allowed to set up another game without inserting another coin; by a further adaptation, high scores could be rewarded with even more free replays – any number, in fact… And note that this offends no traditional notion of gambling. When the player finishes, he is not enriched by a prize or pay-off. When he leaves the machine he has received what he bought, the amusement inherent in the play and nothing else (comparably, bowling sometimes gives an extra frame, baseball may provide some extra-innings, a golfer’s nine includes an indeterminate number of strokes, etc.)2.

Of course, Genco and other manufacturers quickly came up with workarounds whereby the games could be seen ostensibly as games of skill – and therefore exempt from gambling laws – while incorporating features like ‘knockoff buttons’ that “the location owner, partner in the operation with the machine owner, redeemed the games in cash, cleared the redeemed games from the machine by a circuit built into it for that purpose3.

This messy and complicated history of pingames had the ultimate by-product of wide-scale pingame bans (a well-known side-effect within the hobby), as is the rise of amusement pinball and its acceptance as a non-gambling diversion. However, less understood is just how all those bans came to be, though we know a few of the motivations. Some of the bans were driven by the government’s desire to generate revenue, others out of attempts to curtail the racketeering activities of organized crime, and still others were driven by zealots convinced that pinball was corrupting the youth4.

Pingame Regulation

In the United States, pingame regulation occurred at all levels (federal, state, and local). In fact, city pinball bans are perhaps the most famous examples of all. The earliest of these bans was likely the one implemented in Washington DC in 19365, and while these municipal bans are historically interesting, the breadth of this regulatory landscape is too large to cover meaningfully.

So, instead the focus will be on some key, choice examples.

1942: The New York City Ban

New York City’s Mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, despised pinball, and was unapologetic for his hatred.  He wrote, “pinball is a racket dominated by interests heavily tainted with criminality6 and felt it preyed on children specifically.

His city led the way when it came to banning pinball.

As early as 1936, LaGuardia was ordering the New York Police Department to destroy pinball machines7. The New York Times, generally regarded as friendly to the LaGuardia administration, was more than happy to print sensationalized headlines about the “evil” of pinball, coupled with fiery quotes from LaGuardia himself – “at once, without one minute’s delay, seize such machines, and arrest anyone violating the law”, were LaGuardia’s orders to then police commissioner Valentine in a letter published in the New York Times in April of 1937—one of dozens of such examples8.

The paper also regularly printed photos of LaGuardia or Valentine swinging a sledgehammer at a pinball machine, or somehow otherwise contributing to the destruction of the machines that he so hated. In 1940, LaGuardia ordered the New York Police Department to create a “Pinball Squad” – a group of 15 plain clothes police officers charged with finding machines and seeking evidence of pinball gambling9.

In January 1942, LaGuardia signed an order prohibiting pinball altogether and ordered that every available policeman be deployed to round-up and destroy every pinball machine they could find before the owners of those machines could seek a federal injunction to block implementation of the law.  They were successful in destroying 2,964 of the estimated 12,000 machines in the city at the time10.

As thorough as he was relentless in his efforts, only days later another 2,325 machines were confiscated and destroyed11, and by the end of that month another 3,261 machines had been seized12.

The Mayor even attempted to sway the public using the austerity and rationing of the war effort, noting “Only a few days ago New York City was denied priority to buy buttons for our Police Department. Our police must be uniformed and they must have buttons and brass buttons were denied… there are eleven ounces of brass in one of those unlawful gambling machines or enough brass to make seventy-seven buttons for the protection of our cities13.

In other instances, the Mayor insisted that the raw materials being used for pinball machines should be diverted to the war effort—“We feel that it is infinitely preferable that the metal in these evil contraptions be manufactured into arms and bullets which can be used to destroy our foreign enemies14. The city even contributed 3,000 pounds of confiscated pinballs to the war effort15, and in at least one instance had police batons made from pinball legs16.

Importantly, in the wake of the New York City pinball ban, many other major U.S. cities, counties and the states of Vermont17 and New Jersey18 followed suit, though enforcement was never taken as seriously as it was in New York City with some bans being only symbolic in nature or limited to ‘one ball’ machines.

LaGuardia continued his campaigns against pinball, even after the war and into the final days of his administration, taking shots at the federal government. “I have always said that there were some crooked little tinhorns around WPB [War Production Board, which determined rations for civilian use], because they [the pinball manufacturers] always got a break19.

His heavy-handedness with regards to pinball and other matters eventually caught up with him, and the popularity he had enjoyed early in his tenure had evaporated. By 1945 he was polling so badly that he decided not to run for re-election. Nevertheless, LaGuardia’s efforts had long-lasting impacts. Not only was his ban one of the first to go into place, it was one of the last to fall — New York City and Chicago both lifted their pinball bans in 1976 after Roger Sharpe famously demonstrated to the New York City Council that pinball was a truly a game of skill.

1950: The Johnson Act

In 1950 came the first sweeping federal regulation of gambling devices in which pinball machines were implicated.

An Act to Prohibit Transportation of Gambling Devices in Interstate and Foreign Commerce20 was known colloquially as the ‘Johnson Act’ – dubbed as such because it was submitted by Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado21. Broadly, the act prohibited the manufacture, repair, transport, owning, or use of a coin-operated gambling device if there existed the possibility of winning either property or money. Noted attorney and legal scholar Rufus King22 (who also happened to be legal counsel for a number of pinball manufacturers) wrote that:

The Johnson Act left a clear ‘out’ for gambling pinball machines. With no drums or reels, they fell outside category ‘(1)’; and note that category ‘(2)’, which otherwise grounds on an impeccable generic definition of gambling, requires the machine to “deliver… money or property.” By omitting the additional phrase “by the operation of which a person may become entitled to receive” in this latter definition, the 1951 congressional draftsmen virtually wrote a licensing provision for all machines which made use of the free game pay-off subterfuge23.

As such, it seems that the Johnson Act was largely ignored, or at least skirted, by pinball manufacturers. As long as they operated within the wide berths provided by the Johnson Act, they were safe.

The Internet Pinball Database (IPDB) lists over 350 payout games manufactured prior to 1950, a substantial number of which came from Bally. After the Johnson Act there are only a handful of blatant payout (or ‘one ball’) machines… but there are many games that included a ‘knockoff button’, where a player would accrue a number of replays and then ‘sell them back’ to the barkeep. Ads for such machines blatantly promoted the ability for a player to receive up to 400 replays off of a single ball24.

1957: The Korpan Decision

Walter Korpan, a tavern owner from Fox Lake, Illinois, became an unwitting test case when he was arrested in 1955.

He was tried, convicted, and ordered by Federal District Judge, John Barnes, to pay $750 for operating gambling machines without purchasing the requisite $250 federal stamps that were required for slot machines25 – instead paying the ‘amusement device’ tax of $1026 required of pinball machines. In his decision, Judge Barnes ruled that ‘bingo-type’ pinball machines were no different than other gambling devices, and agents testified that Korpan had paid them for winning combinations on the machines27.

The Federal Court of Appeals reversed the decision, “holding that respondent’s machines did not come within the definition [of gambling machines]”28. The Justice Department appealed, and the Supreme Court was asked to take the case.

Prior to the case being heard, a brief was filed asking the Supreme Court to reject the case, noting in part that, “A different decision than that reached by the Appeals Court would destroy the pinball machine industry and result in the loss of revenue for the reason that an amusement game is economically unable to bear the annual $250 tax… pinballs are not ‘one armed bandits’… Therefore, there is nothing in the Revenue Act of 1941 or in the committee hearings or reports in the Senate debate which casts any doubt upon the correctness of the Court of Appeals decision29.

In their 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the initial ruling- declaring that “pinball machines on which winning players receive cash, premiums, or tokens were gambling devices subject to $250 Federal tax on each30.

The court made clear though that their ruling was limited to those devices only, and not to machines designed purely for amusement’s sake, noting “We interpret this history however, as demonstrating a congressional purpose to place a heavy tax on all ‘slot machine’ gambling devices, regardless of their particular structure, and a substantially smaller tax on machines played purely for amusement which offered the player no expectation of receiving ‘cash, premiums, merchandise, or tokens31’.”

The Korpan decision served to bring an end to the era of pins which were thinly-veiled gambling devices, and set the stage for derision and infighting amongst the various manufacturers – and not just bickering behind the curtains of the industry, but all the way into the Illinois legislature.

1961: The Illinois Hearings

Illinois – particularly the Chicago area – was the heart of pinball production in the U.S. (and, indeed, the world). As one might expect, when interest in bans and prohibitions on various pingames would surface Illinois was no exception, but given so many businesses relied on the industry, it resulted in more concerns than just moral, as so many livelihoods were involved.

Legislatively, there was an attempt in 1959 to ban a type of pinball machine – specifically those that use a ‘recorder replay’. Illinois Governor Stratton vetoed the bill, declaring that local communities already had the legal tools necessary to address gambling concerns, and that he thought it unwise to focus on a particular type of pinball machine. So, while the Illinois law did not change, this attempt in 1959 set the stage for hearings in 1961.

Stratton was out as governor in 1961, replaced by Otto Kerner. In fact, Kerner used Stratton’s 1959 recorder ban veto as part of his campaign to defeat Stratton (who did attempt to get a third term as governor). With Kerner in place, the Illinois Senate decided to hold hearings in 1961, specifically through their Judiciary Committee. The purpose was to evaluate various pingames and determine if any should be banned in the state.

The hearings in Illinois are noteworthy because of a variety of factors. Various kinds of pingames were brought in and examined by the legislators. It also positioned two manufacturers against each other: D. Gottlieb & Company and Bally Manufacturing, in part because of the different types of pingames and the products these manufacturers were focused on building.

Alvin Gottlieb, of D. Gottlieb & Co. and son of founder David Gottlieb, testified at the hearings. The Gottlieb position was that bingo and in-line game models were amoral and designed as a form of gambling. Unsurprisingly, Gottlieb’s position was that they did not build such devices, and that their pinball games were novelty only and should be precluded from the ban.

Bally, on the other hand, was heavily involved in bingo production and would see significant curtailment of their sales if bingo devices were banned. It was also implied by Gottlieb that Bally had organized crime connections. This position was obviously unpopular within the industry, and Bally in particular went on the offensive, taking out full page ads in Billboard and Cash Box magazines to declare their innocence and suggest that Gottlieb was trying to take advantage of the recent death of Bally’s Ray Moloney by implying that the company had been taken over by “sinister principals32 – an allegation which continued to dog Bally for decades33.

Ad Bally Manufacturing Company placed in Billboard Music Week to counter accusations made by D. Gottlieb & Company
The ad Bally Manufacturing Company placed in Billboard & Music Week to counter accusations made by D. Gottlieb & Company

There were Senate members who found the Gottlieb position suspicious, and that it may be more driven by harming rivals than having to do with morality. This bill failed in the State House, though some criminal code changes related to gambling pinball did survive the session. Ultimately, due to revisions in 1962 to the Johnson Act, in 1963 Illinois finally passed a ban designed to eliminate gambling pinball machines34.

1962: Johnson Act Revisions

In 1962, sweeping reforms to the Johnson Act were enacted in the form of the Gambling Devices Act of 1962 (Public Law 87-840)35.

None of the provisions of this Act shall be construed to apply— “(1) to any machine or mechanical device designed and manufactured primarily for use at a racetrack in connection with parimutuel betting, (2) to any machine or mechanical device, such as a coinoperated bowling alley, shuffleboard, marble machine (a so-called pinball machine), or mechanical gun, which is not designed and manufactured primarily for use in connection with gambling, and (A) which when operated does not deliver, as a result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property, or (B) by the operation of which a person may not become entitled to receive, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property

Types of Pingames

Broadly speaking, pingames fall into one of three categories. Payout games, which would actually provide money directly when the game was won. ‘Free game’ games, which kept track of replays in sufficient quantities that it was often unrealistic to expect the player to play them all out (which resulted in the value of each game being paid back to the player indirectly, such as from the store owner hosting the game). Finally, novelty games, which were designed solely to be enjoyed for the challenge without monetary reward.

Within each of these categories there were numerous devices that operated on various principles, yet still were considered some form of pingame.

Below are several examples within each category. It is important to note that the types of games were commonly confused. Those advocating regulation often misunderstood what they were talking about. The same goes for journalists and even legislators, who incorrectly used terms or applied concepts that were not actually in play for a particular game type.

Payout games automatically dispense payment of some form. The method of payout varied, but each manufacturer participated. Gottlieb, who later took a stance against gambling games, was one of the first to market with the new payout feature. Cloverleaf was purely mechanical and awaited a ball to hit the ‘Skill Hole’ before paying out a set number of coins.36

The biggest drawback of the early (1932-4) machines was the lack of tilt detection. As such, an operator or parlor owner would need to observe the game at all times to ensure there was no cheating. Slugs were another common issue. Similar to the early slot machines, there was no detection in the earliest games for coin-like discs inserted. In Chicago, in particular, where there was a large manufacturing base, slugs were made and then used to play the gambling games of the day.

Bally’s Rocket, the company’s first payout game37, employed a new mechanism: an electro-mechanical motorized system that would pay out at various score thresholds. This game proved very popular and served as a template for later payout games from other manufacturers. More and more companies began the manufacturing of payout games, including slot machine manufacturers such as Mills Novelty Company and O.D. Jennings & Company.

The law started adapting to the new games, and just as quickly the manufacturers adapted to changes in the law.

The evolution and response in pingames were similar to the response in slot machines. Games could be purchased to dispense a token instead of a coin, and the token could be exchanged at the counter for goods or for money. The games could dispense something of value (a piece of gum or a roll of mints, as seen on Gottlieb’s Plus and Minus38), and the game was just a diversion on top of your mint purchase. Some manufacturers hid the payout drawer inside the machine, as can be observed on the advertisement for Chicago Coin’s Big Casino39, which prevented the casual observer from knowing that the games had a payout feature at all! Games like A.D.T’s Autodart40 would inscribe your score onto a ticket, which could be exchanged for money or food/drink.

In order to more efficiently take money from players, some manufacturers adopted single-ball play. In exchange for one or more coins, a player had one chance to land in a scoring pocket and earn a payout. This concept proved extremely popular and almost all manufacturers of the day developed one-ball games.

Throughout the 1930s the one-ball games underwent multiple changes – multiple-coin play, as seen in Bally’s Pari-Mutuel41, and ever more sophisticated anti-cheat mechanisms. For the person who managed the games on site, one of the most important developments was the tilt mechanism: it allowed for automatic disqualification of the game, preventing automatic payout if a player got too rough with the machine. Similarly, Bally’s Jumbo42 used a nickel-plated brass ball. This prevented players from using magnets to lift and deposit balls into scoring pockets.

In 1936, Bally put out their first ‘modern’ one-ball, themed after horse racing. Preakness43, named after a famous horse race, began the use of a (mostly) standardized playfield layout and base set of features for one-balls. Seven numbers on the backflash are matched to numbers on the playfield. The goal is to land a ball in a playfield hole matching the number illuminated on the backflash. This selection is repeated four times on the playfield, in sections named ‘Purse’, ‘Show’, ‘Place’ and ‘Win’. The player receives a payout based on which section the ball lands in, increasing until the max ‘Win’ selection is hit.

These ‘horserace’ games proved extremely popular. Bally produced 42 games in this series, and many other manufacturers utilized the same playfield layout and general feature set, including Gottlieb (in 1938’s Man-O-War and 1946’s New Daily-Races), Keeney, Universal (the gambling division of United), and others.

The legal climate during this time was changing, and these games were banned in certain localities due to their automatic payout feature.

Bally realized that providing games in two versions, ‘replay’ and ‘payout’ would help avoid any issues. The replay version would tally your wins on a ‘replay register’, which could be zeroed by means of a ‘knock-off switch’. These knock-off switches were also used on other pingames, but a typical pingame of the time could hold 75 replays, while a one ball horserace game could hold 899. These other pingames also faced the same challenges as the horserace games, and typically shipped with selector plugs for either ‘replay’ or ‘novelty’ play – a concept that would carry forward until the 1950s.

Prior to World War II, novelty games were rarely, if ever, designed as such – novelty games were convertible from payout or free play by the operator, either by changing a set of springs on certain units, or by changing a plug internally.

In both types of games, the proprietor of the establishment would pay for any replays awarded or even high scores when set to the novelty setting. In replay mode, the knock-off switch would be pressed to zero out the meter or credit unit, preventing the next player from playing for free. Another potential issue was the use of a single ball. Bally worked around this legal limitation by including 5 balls, and adding a ‘skill lane’44, which was simply a trough located behind the typical location of a rebound rubber, which would capture the first 4 balls. Only the 5th ball would actually play.

Due to efforts to outlaw one-ball games, eventually Congress passed the Johnson Act. As a reaction to this new law, Bally and United began working on the next generation of gambling pinballs.

The bingo pinball was born – instead of one ball to achieve your goal, you now had 5.

With the increased number of balls came a change in game rules and playfield layout – gone was the increasing reward for landing lower on the playfield. Instead, bingo cards comprised of 25 numbers (5×5) were shown on the backglass, and the player’s job was to line up 3, 4, or 5 numbers in a row. The player was able to win with just 3 out of five balls.

United was first to market with a game called A-B-C45. It used a roulette-style playfield with a pop bumper in the center. Bally’s first bingo (introduced shortly after A-B-C), Bright Lights46, used a descending pyramid of numbers, with a ball return hole at the bottom. The player could re-play any returned ball. This playfield layout was quickly adopted by United and numerous games were made. Williams also tried their hand at a bingo pinball machine with the release of Long Beach47, and Keeney made their Holiday48.

The anti-gambling fervor in the United States continued, however, and as noted above, 1957 was a watershed moment as the Korpan Decision moved bingo pinballs into the category of gambling devices. Unfortunately, this classification proved too broad, and ‘amusement’ pinballs also fell under the umbrella. Changes to the design of the games (removal of the knock-off button as well as removal of a dedicated replay meter) as well as lobbying allowed the ‘amusement’ pinballs to continue production.

On the other side of the fence, gambling pinballs were still making, or had the potential to make, serious money.

By this time, United had left production of bingo pinballs, but Bally came up with many clever ways to circumvent the laws and allow production to continue. One such change was the addition of the ‘OK’ game, also known as the ‘Red Letter’ game49. When this feature was qualified, a player could win an immediate free game with a guaranteed set of odds and features. This allowed the player to win something more akin to a free play on an amusement pinball. Meanwhile, the game could still hold 899 credits, and those credits could be zeroed out.

Some territories in the United States (notably Wisconsin and New York) made the winning of any replay illegal. Each replay was considered something of worth. Gottlieb came up with the idea of the ‘add-a-ball’ game which awarded skillful play with up to 10 extra balls. Each ball was likely to be played by the initial player and was therefore not something of value that could be sold. Instead of counting up the balls played, add-a-ball games counted down the balls still to play.50

The same playfields and artwork were used for both add-a-ball and replay versions, however, some design changes were made for most add-a-ball games. On many replay games, the sequence needed to light special (and award free game) was fixed. Once the sequence was complete, the player could achieve as many specials as their skill allowed over their remaining balls. On most add-a-ball games, the sequence would reset once the sequence was completed and a ball was drained. This added another layer of challenge to the add-a-ball games that makes them highly collectible today.

Add-a-ball games, beginning with Gottlieb’s Flipper, are novelty games in the truest sense – there is no reward that is achieved that can be used after the conclusion of the game. While it would be possible for a player to achieve ten extra balls and sell the existing game to another player, it would be extremely unlikely. Foreign markets, typically much more strict on award of replays, embraced the add-a-ball games. Eventually, all manufacturers began designing pinballs that were convertible from add-a-ball to replay mode for use in various states, localities, and countries. Bally focused on Italy as a target market for its add-a-ball games.

Increased regulation continued on gambling pinball in the US, with each state banning bingo pinball games. Bally continued to produce games to go overseas, as well as in the few remaining territories in the United States that would still allow the games. Eventually, in 1980, the games were rejected in every state, and Bally stopped manufacture of all bingo pinball machines.

There are many notable creative minds that contributed to the era of gambling pingames. Wayne Neyens (of Gottlieb) and Lyn Durant (of United) both had their start at a gambling pingame manufacturer Western Equipment and Supply. Steve Kordek was working at Genco during the time when gambling pinballs and uprights were made. Don Hooker, the engineer at Bally that conceived of the circuitry in the complex bingo pinballs, got his start at PAMCO, and some of his design ideas carried forward to his new employer. In the 1960s, the gambling designer at Keeney was Ed Krynski, who left Keeney to work at Gottlieb creating amusement pinballs.

Summary of Manufacturer Stances on the Gambling Regulations


Of the big three manufacturers, Gottlieb was the most opposed to gambling devices and willing to stake a claim against them in the public sphere. This played out quite prominently in Illinois, where most pingame manufacturing was taking place.

Alvin Gottlieb testified before the Illinois Senate’s Judiciary Committee in 1961, representing the company his father founded. During this testimony, he not only called out Bally as a manufacturer of gambling devices, but also implied that Bally was at least partially controlled by figures involved in organized crime51.

Gottlieb, as a company, was interested in ensuring amusement pingames (which they manufactured in quantity), were outside the scope of any bans. However, in order to achieve this, the company began advocating for bans on any devices that could be construed as gambling (and which they did not manufacture, at least any longer). Rufus King, a Washington D.C. attorney, was hired by Gottlieb to advocate this position. King, in the service of Gottlieb (and well-known at the time for drafting anti-gambling model legislation), informed the Illinois Senate that in-line bingo machines were gambling devices so extreme that a player could “gamble his whole paycheck without ever touching the plunger or shooting any balls” and that the “old one-armed bandit isn’t even in their class52.

That Gottlieb could have been acting in its own self-interest versus its manufacturing rivals was not a concept lost on all legislators. Illinois State Senator Bernard Neistein said, regarding one bill, “I’m wondering if there is a hidden gimmick in this bill. Are we stamping out vice and crime, or helping a rival manufacturer, D. Gottlieb & Co.? Is this special interest legislation?53 Bally being the obvious losing party should the bill have passed.


Williams seemed to somewhat split the difference between Gottlieb and Bally. Williams’ employees and owners were not out testifying before legislative bodies in favor of banning particular types of pinball games. However, at more of an arm’s length, the company was working to ensure amusement pingames could endure while gambling pingames be sacrificed.

Williams did choose to contract with Rufus King (who, noted above, also often represented Gottlieb in these anti-gambling discussions) to help them achieve their goals for permitting amusement pinball54. Even earlier, Harry Williams (founder of Williams Manufacturing) established the Coin Machine Institute55. This organization attempted to educate the public about flipper pinball and how it was just an amusement game, rather than gambling.


As one would expect, Bally was not supportive of pingame bans that impacted gambling devices, as the company was deeply invested in making bingo games. According to the IPDB, Bally spent little time on amusement pinball once flipper pinball came into being, until 1963 when Ted Zale was brought in to design games. As shown earlier, this was after many ban discussions and bills appeared, and appears in part driven by necessity. Bally likely identified diversification as a key strategy, though the company continued to produce bingo machines for many more years.


Anti-gambling legislation in the US traversed a long, rocky path, with varying impacts at the federal and state/local levels. Manufacturers responded to this changing landscape differently. Some opposed all prospective limitations. Some accepted what they saw as inevitable. Some even embraced the changes, especially when only rivals would pay the price (perhaps in the hopes of protecting their own devices from future encroachment).

Given Gottlieb was the most supportive of the ban efforts, does this touch back on the preface to this article? Were the other manufacturers angered by Gottlieb and isolated it from consideration when it came to collaboration, hiring, and the like? Or were there other differences – such as corporate culture – more in play, and the anti-gambling stances merely interesting differences but not particularly critical to how Gottlieb was seen and treated by the other pingame producers?

Regardless of the truth, the behavior of these companies, and the very history of anti-pingame legislation, is a fascinating tapestry of drama and disruption within the amusement industry.


1 (Firm Defies D.C. Pinball Ban; Plans Test in Legality Fight, 1936)

2 (King, Pinball Problem in Illinois — An Overdue Solution, 1966)

3 (King, Pinball Problem in Illinois — An Overdue Solution, 1966)

4 (Ban Pinball to Save Kids’ Lunch Money, 1955)

5 (Firm Defies D.C. Pinball Ban; Plans Test in Legality Fight, 1936)–

6 (Yakas, Did You Know Pinball Was Illegal In NYC For Over 30 Years?, Gothamist, January 8, 2012)

7 (Criminal’s Arsenal to Be Sunk in Sound, 1936)

8 (Mayor Orders New Drive in Pin-Ball Games; Evil Again Increasing, He Tells Valentine, 1937)

9 (Police Force Ends Its ‘Pinball Squad’, 1941 )

10 (Mayor Asks Speed in Pinball Raids, 1942)

11 (Pinball Seizures Pushed by Police, 1942)

12 (3,261 Pinball Machines Seized, 1942 )

13 (Brass in a Pinball Device Equals 77 Police Buttons, 1942)

14 (Pinball as “Racket” Fought by Mayor, 1942)

15 (Pinballs To Go Into War Effort, 1942)

16 (Mayor’s Ire Turns on Pinball Games, 1942)

17 (Bans Pinball Games in Vermont, 1941)

18 (Pinball in Jersey Banned by Court, 1942)

19 (Orders New Crack Down, 1945)

20 (Congress)

21 (Wikipedia, 2018)

22 (Lawyer Rufus King Sr., 1999)

23 (King, 1964)

24 (Advertisement for Genco Golden Nugget, 1953)

25 (Appeals Court Upsets “Bingo” Pinball Ruling, 1956)

26 (High Court to Act on Pinball Devices, 1957)

27 (Rules Pinball Machines are Slot Devices, 1955)

28 (Here’s Compete Supreme Court Decision on U.S. Vs. Korpan, 1957)

29 (US Supreme Court Decides to Review In-Line Pin Case, 1957)

30 (Pinball Machine Lose in Supreme Court Tilt, 1957)

31 (Here’s Compete Supreme Court Decision on U.S. Vs. Korpan, 1957)

32 The ad appeared on page 188 of the May 8th 1961 edition of Billboard, and the rear cover of the May 13th 1961 edition of Cash Box.

33 (Dougherty, 2005)

34 (King, Pinball Problem in Illinois—An Overdue Solution, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1966)

35 (Public Law 87-840, 1962)

36 Gottlieb Cloverleaf:

37 Bally Rocket:

38 Gottlieb Plus and Minus:

39 Chicago Coin Big Casino:

40 A.D.T. Autodart:

41 Bally Pari-Mutuel:

42 Bally Jumbo:

43 Bally Preakness:

44 Bally Champion playfield, showing ‘Skill Lane’:

45 United A-B-C:

46 Bally Bright Lights:

47 Williams Long Beach:

48 Keeney Holiday:

49 Bally County Fair flyer:

50 Gottlieb Flipper advertisement:

51 (Bally Manufacturing Company, Statement of Fact, Billboard Music Week, May 8, 1961)

52 (Tagge, ‘OK Ban on One Pinball Model’, Chicago Daily Tribune, April 26, 1961)

53 (Tagge, ‘Senators Ask Close Look at Pinball Games’, Chicago Daily Tribune, April 12, 1961)

54 (Paige, ‘Backs to Wall, Illinois Operators Battle Pin Ban Bill’, Billboard, May 13, 1967)

55 (Jensen, ‘Pingames and Gambling’,, date unknown)


3,261 Pinball Machines Seized. (1942 , February 1). New York Times, p. 32

Advertisement for Genco Golden Nugget. (1953, February 28). The Billboard, 153

Appeals Court Upsets ‘Bingo” Pinball Ruling. (1956, September 29). The Chicago Daily Tribune, p. 11

Ban Pinball to Save Kids’ Lunch Money. (1955, October 13). Southern Illinoisan, p. 3

Bans Pinball Games in Vermont. (1941, November 5). New York Times, p. 30

Brass in a Pinball Device Equals 77 Police Buttons. (1942, May 18). New York Times, p. 17

Buckley, T. (1975, April 4). About New York: It’s Still the Devil’s Game. New York Times, p. 18

Congress, L. o. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Criminal’s Arsenal to Be Sunk in Sound. (1936, August 3). New York Times, p. 34

Dougherty, G. (2005, April 3). Bally’s No Stranger to Questions, Controversy, Chicago Tribune

Federal Regulation of Gambling. (1951). Yale Law Journal, 1396-1416

Firm Defies D.C. Pinball Ban; Plans Test in Legality Fight. (1936, July 9). The Washington Post, p. X1

Here’s Compete Supreme Court Decision on U.S. Vs. Korpan. (1957, June 17). The Billboard, p. 125

High Court to Act on Pinball Devices. (1957, January 22). The New York Times, p. 45

King, R. (1964). The Rise and Decline of Coin-Machine Gambling. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 199-207

King, R. (1966). Pinball Problem in Illinois — An Overdue Solution. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 17-26

Lawyer Rufus King Sr. (1999, December 29). The Washington Post, p. B5

Mayor Asks Speed in Pinball Raids. (1942, January 25). New York Times, p. 32

Mayor Orders New Drive in Pin-Ball Games; Evil Again Increasing, He Tells Valentine. (1937, April 27). New York Times, p. 1

Mayor’s Ire Turns on Pinball Games. (1942, October 17). New York Times, p. 17

Orders New Crack Down. (1945, May 21). New York Times, p. 21

Pinball as “Racket” Fought by Mayor. (1942, January 29). New York Times, p. 21

Pinball in Jersey Banned by Court. (1942, February 25). New York Times, p. 40

Pinball Machine Lose in Supreme Court Tilt. (1957, June 18). New York Times, p. 21

Pinball Seizures Pushed by Police. (1942, January 23). New York Times, p. 40

Pinballs To Go Into War Effort. (1942, February 22). New York Times, p. 30

Police Force Ends Its ‘Pinball Squad’. (1941 , December 17). New York Times, p. 28

Public Law 87-840. (1962, October 18). pp. 1075-1077

Rules Pinball Machines are Slot Devices. (1955, December 6). Chicago Daily Tribune, p. 1

United States Department of Justice. (1962, rev. 2014). Information Regarding the Gambling Devices Act of 1962

US Supreme Court Decides to Review In-Line Pin Case. (1957, February 2). The Billboard, p. 85

Wikipedia. (2018, July 23). Retrieved from Edwin C. Johnson:

  • Greg Freres


    Stern Pinball’s Art Director and famed pinball artist in his own right, Greg Freres,…
  • Stern Pinball's Godzilla 70th Anniversary model


    Stern Pinball today revealed the highly-anticipated black-and-white 70th Anniversary Editi…
  • Pedretti Pinball's new Funhouse Remake


    Following our report on their teaser video, Pedretti Pinball today released details of the…
Load More Related Articles
Load More By Nicholas Baldridge, Steven Doellefeld, & Dennis Kriesel
Load More In LEARN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also


Pinball add-ons, mods and toppers are increasingly popular ways to customise your machine,…