Did You Know Pinball Was Illegal In New York?
Did you know that pinball used to be banned in New York? Seriously, it was illegal to play pinball in New York City.
Pinball was banned beginning in the early 1940s until 1976 in New York City because mayor Fiorello La Guardia believed that it robbed school children of their hard-earned nickels and dimes. So he considered it a form of gambling that was run by the mafia. Pinball was also banned in Chicago, L.A., and other big cities for the same reason.
The actual banning of the game was executed in New York quite dramatically, as the announcement was made just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor was attacked. To ensure a pinball-free New York, Mayor LaGuardia issued a city-wide mandate for the police to round up pinball machines and arrest their owners. Police officers made public spectacles of destroying pinball machines with axes and sledgehammers...kind of like they did with beer barrels during prohibition.
Then came along Roger Sharpe, a pinball player and designer in 1976 who got the ban reversed by playing pinball in front of lawmakers in New York. Sharpe showed that it wasn't gambling it was a game of skill.
In 1976, Sharpe testified before the New York City Council that if he pulled the plunger back just the right amount, the ball would go in a certain lane. To demonstrate, he pulled back the plunger on a machine in the courtroom; the ball went right into the lane he had pointed out previously. The head of the council announced that he had seen enough, and pinball was soon legal. The decision spread throughout the country, and pinball was soon legal everywhere. Sharpe has since remarked that the plunge was by luck.
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