The surprising history behind a beloved American pastime.
1. Pinball Was Illegal
Pinball was banned from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s in most of America’s big cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, where the game was born and where virtually all of its manufacturers have historically been located. The stated reason for the bans: Pinball was a game of chance, not skill, and so it was a form of gambling. To be fair, pinball really did involve a lot less skill in the early years of the game, largely because the flipper wasn’t invented until 1947, five years after most of the bans were implemented. Up until then, players would bump and tilt the machines in order to sway the ball’s gravity. Many lawmakers also believed pinball to be a mafia-run racket and a time- and dime-waster for impressionable youth. (The machines robbed the “pockets of schoolchildren in the form of nickels and dimes given them as lunch money,” New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia wrote in a Supreme Court affidavit.)
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