Did You Know that Pinball was once Considered Gambling?!

National Pinball Museum BaltimoreIt’s the classic story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hanging out with the wrong crowd. Running with scissors.

Pinball machines were in bars and stores – no surprise there. What else was there? Gambling games. (Those rascals)

Pinball was respected as a game of skill: your ability to pull the plunger to release the ball, and rocking the table to affect the game’s outcome. Skill means it wasn’t gambling. So for years, pinball was exempt from the law–by the skin of its teeth. But then guilt by association kicked in; politicians felt like their constituents were wasting (untaxable) money, and pinball was in the slammer. But clearly not forever.

In the Beginning

The first game was introduced in 1931, Baffle Ball. Within six months the company had 75,000 orders!

Stores would give prizes for winning: cigars, food, money. And eventually they aggregated to the highest winner of the week and gave away a turkey for the holidays or a keg of beer. All to entice folks to come to the store or bar. It worked.

National Pinpall Museum Baltimore

Evidently Sex Sells in Pinball, Too

Walking through the National Pinball Museum in Baltimore, MD it’s easy to note that nearly all the games feature sexy women. Sexy CARTOON women. I don’t get it. They’re at the beach, at the mercy of a demon, working for a gangster, working at a casino, just standing in the background. Only in more recent years are there a few without women: they’re focused on ridiculous tricks and elaborate stories. And everyone knows that’s no place for a lady.

National Pinball Museum Baltimore

Am I Pinball Wizard? Not So Much

The expensive entrance fee includes two hours of  play time on 20-ish games. It was fun, sure. For 30 minutes. They also offer a four-hour fee. Who can do that?

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Even if you aren’t old enough to have memories of these games they’re still fun to see. Plus look at the transition from then-to-now. Yuck.
Click the pic to advance to the next image in the slideshow.


What’s your favorite arcade game? Memory of pinball?

Note: these pictures are from Flickr as photography was not allowed of the historic games.

National Pinball Museum Baltimore


3 Responses

All the more reason to come to Seattle. The Seattle Pinball Museum is $8 or so, and offers all-you-can-play. No time limit. And beer.

Beer, you say? I’ll be right there.


I’m loving your posts and wising that I were with you in these escapades. I don’t know how you are finding these unusual but interesting places to visit. The June issue of “Readers’ Digest” has highlighted afew others. You should have written these but maybe you would still like to visit if you haven’t already.

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