by Russ Jensen
     The pinball machine has been attacked a multitude of times
in its sixty year lifetime but has still survived. These attacks
were generally based on the use (either real or imagined) of the
pingame as a "gambling device" and were carried out using court
actions and city, county, state, and federal legislation. 
     These attacks resulted in pingames eventually being banned
in many jurisdictions, most notably in the nation's three largest
cities (New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles). The bans in these
cities only having been overturned in the courts in the 1970's. 
     Paralleling these legal harassments have been numerous
attacks by the "crusading press" and national magazines. Probably
the three strongest 'anti-pinball' articles to appear in major
magazines over the years were: "Ten Billion Nickels", Saturday
Evening Post, 1939; "Pin Money Plungers", Reader's Digest, 1941;
and "The Pinball Business Isn't Child's Play", Better Homes and
Gardens", 1957. 
     The attacks on pingames began in the 1930's and continued
into the Forties and even into the Fifties. However, their
frequency decreased with the years as did the actual use of
pingames for gambling. By the mid 1960's you would have thought
that the pressure would have been off. But was it? In the Spring
of 1967 something occurred in the Illinois state legislature
which, had it completely succeeded, could have resulted in the
almost total annihilation of the pinball, and for that matter,
the slot machine industry. 
     An editorial in the April 5, 1967 issue of CASH BOX
magazine, titled "Illinois Alert", told of a bill introduced in
the Illinois Senate, SB376, which would remove an existing
exemption of pingames from the definition of gambling devices in
the 1961 Illinois Criminal Code. This proposed bill had just been
passed UNANIMOUSLY by the State Senate Legislative Committee. 
     The CASH BOX editorial made a strong plea for the operators
and industry people in the state of Illinois to ban together to
help defeat this legislation and urged Illinois coinmen to attend
a special meeting of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators
Association (ICMOA) on April 22 and 23 in the state capitol.
Action was considered urgent since the Illinois State House
Legislative Committee had scheduled a hearing on this legislation
for May 10th. 
     The proposed amendment to the Criminal Code replaced the
section that excluded pingames from the definition of gambling
devices with a new section which would explicitly prohibit the
operation and possession of "pinball, bagatelle, or pigeon-hole
games". It was obviously the inclusion of the term 'pinball' that
worried the coinmen even though the further definition of these
devices seemed to be aimed primarily at 'bingo pinballs'. The
people in the industry who had analyzed this proposed legislation
had come to the conclusion that it could very likely result in
the outlawing of 'flipper pinball games' as well as the 'bingos'.
     The ICMOA held their special meeting, although attendance by
Illinois coinmen was somewhat less than expected; apparently the
gravity of the situation was not appreciated by many. The meeting
was highlighted by a talk by Representative Zeke Giorgi a member
of the Illinois House who also was connected with a coin machine
distributorship. He told the coinmen that even though "they are
battling in a 'rough sea' all was not lost if they joined in the
melee now". He then urged all to contact their state legislators
to inform them of the true facts concerning amusement machines
and the effect of banning them on their livelihood and the
state's economy. 
     The major results of the two day meeting were: 1, A plan for
all members to contact their appropriate state legislators (a
list of these was provided to meeting attenders); 2, A committee
was appointed to engage legal assistance; and 3, the membership
voted a mandatory assessment of $3 per machine to help defray the
cost of the undertaking. 
     A law firm in the state capitol was hired to represent
ICMOA. These lawyers also worked in close association with
attorney Rufus King of Washington D.C. who had been retained by
game manufacturers Gottlieb, Midway, and Williams.  Mr. King,
incidentally, was later involved in the court cases to
re-legalize pingames in the nation's three largest cities.) 
     With the cooperation of sympathetic state representatives,
it was decided to introduce a bill, which became HB2410, which
would outlaw gambling type machines in the state while allowing
non-gambling flipper games. The plan was to push for approval of
this hill and the defeat of HR688 which was the House version of
the Senate "total ban bill". The Senate bill had finally passed
the full Senate by a vote of 45 to 3. 
     The next round in the 'Pinball bill war' was conducted at
the two day meeting of the Judiciary Committee of the Illinois
General Assembly held on May 10 and 11. This meeting was quite
hectic due to the large number of proposed bills which had to be
considered prior to a scheduled adjournment of the legislature. 
Debate on the pinball related bills began late in the afternoon
and continued into the late evening session. At that lime the
chairman appointed a special committee to hear the debate and
make recommendations to the full committee the following morning.
     The proponents of the industry backed bill, HB2410, argued
eloquently that forty states and the federal government easily
distinguished between amusement and gambling machines, outlawing
the latter, and in the case of the federal government taxing only
the gambling devices. A vote on this bill was finally taken. The
results were 16 in favor of passing the bill to the full House, 3
against, and 2 abstentions. A vote on the anti-pinball bills was
not taken and was postponed until the next committee meeting
scheduled for May 22 and 23. 
     The final defeat for the anti-pinball forces occurred during
a late night session of the Judiciary Committee on May 23. At
that time the two anti-pinball bills, SB376 and its House
counterpart HB688, were killed by a vote of only 13 to 11. This
ended the 1967 assault on the pinball machine in the state of
     How, you are probably asking, could this move to outlaw
pinball machines in Illinois have possibly resulted in the end of
pinball altogether? The answer to this question can be found in
an editorial in the May 27, 1967 issue of CASH BOX. 
     That article, titled "The Specter on Annihilation", told of
another proposed bill in the Illinois House, HB691, which was
"quietly at play in committee" at the time the pinball ban bills
were being debated. That bill, if passed into law, would have
totally banned the manufacture and interstate shipment of
gambling equipment in and from the state of Illinois. This bill,
however, was also voted down during the Judiciary Committee
meeting of May 11 and fortunately was voted down by a vote of 19
to 5. 
     The CASH BOX editorial pointed out that had this bill and
the 'total pingame ban' bill both passed into law the manufacture
and distribution of all "gambling equipment" (which would have by
legal definition included flipper pinballs) would have been
totally banned in Illinois which, of course, was where all the
major manufacturers were located; an effective end to the
industry! We are all fortunate that this never occurred, or even
came close, but had it not been for the united attack by the
coinmen of Illinois things might have turned out differently.  

Return to HOME