Would you believe that pinball machines were once banned in New York city? But why on earth were pinball machines banned in New York city, I mean they’re not exactly the hive of criminal activity. Well, it all had to do with a perception of what they were, and that incorrect perception was gambling.
Pinball is a type of primitive, but still immensely popular arcade gaming machine. Built on a sloping table with a gutter at the bottom, the object of the game is to keep a small metallic ball on the game field for as long as possible, while hitting different targets and increasing your score. You achieve this by using paddles which are commonly placed just above the gutter. Once you have lost all of your balls the game is over. It’s a game that requires skill to truly master, but it wasn’t always viewed that way, and it wasn’t always played the same way either. In fact, there’s a chance that your grandparents or even possibly your great-grandparents played one in their youth, but with a major difference. It was a difference which saw pinball machines banned in New York city for over 30 years.
The original pinball didn’t have any flippers. To keep the ball in play you had to bump, nudge and tilt the machines. This gave the impression that it wasn’t a game of skill, but a game of chance. Essentially making it a gambling game. Flippers were finally introduced in 1947, but by that time it was too late, pinball was already banned in New York.
The Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia was staunchly opposed to the game. He was adamant that they were made and distributed by the mafia for no other purpose than to take money from the youth. To enforce the ban he even conducted raids similar to those carried out during prohibition. When the machines were found they were destroyed and dumped into the river. And just as with prohibition, there were secluded “speakeasies” for pinball too.
Just as with Prohibition, this ridiculous pinball machine ban in New York finally came to an end in 1976. It was finally repealed when the Amusement and Music Operators Association proved what everyone already knew. Pinball was a game of skill, not one of chance.
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