Did you know Pinball was banned in Los Angeles in 1939, and in New York in 1940? The ban was overturned in Los Angeles in 1974 by the Supreme Court of California, but only after 35 years.

The ban in New York was spearheaded in 1940 by then mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who is shown in various photos destroying Pinball machines when he went on police Pinball raids. After the machines were destroyed they then threw the remains in the rivers.  According to the Mayor’s account in a Supreme Court affidavit, the machines robbed the “pockets of schoolchildren in the form of nickels and dimes given them as lunch money”.

In 1976, as recounted in the Chicago Reader, the ban ended when Roger Sharpe (a star witness for the AMOA – Amusement and Music Operators Association) testified in April 1976 before a committee in a Manhattan courtroom that pinball games had become games of skill and were not games of chance, that is, gambling. He began to play one of two games set up in the courtroom, and – in a move he compares to Babe Ruth‘s home run in the 1932 World Series – called out precisely what he was going to shoot for, and then proceeded to do so. Astonished committee members reportedly voted to remove the ban, which was followed in other cities. (Sharpe reportedly acknowledges his courtroom shot was by sheer luck.)


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