Bingo Pinballs

Created on 07-14-2021


When Indiana (and America) Declared War on Pinball


May 1, 2021


On a bright April afternoon in 1965, the Indiana State Police invited the local press to an intimate ceremony at the Dunes Police Post in Chesterton, Indiana, just on the shore of Lake Michigan. When the onlookers arrived, they formed a half-circle around two pinball machines sitting in the patches of dune grass and sand near the parking lot. One of the officers asked for a volunteer from the press. The two men popped open a side panel on each machine, pulling out change boxes heavy with coins. The two men counted the money—entirely in dimes—and announced a total of $219.40. Today, that’s nearly two grand.


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Indiana police pulverize pinball machines at the Dunes in 1965


The two machines had been confiscated from a Starke County truck stop nearly three years earlier, so the state police announced the money would be given to Starke County charities. The onlookers gave a round of quick, polite applause.


Then the 15-pound sledgehammers came out.
Two ISP officers did the honors, swinging the sledge in a wide arc then driving it into the tender electric guts of each pinball machine. Machines that had cost $900 each. Their cameras snapped, and photographers from Porter County’s Vidette-Messenger captured the action (the photos above). That destruction, in 2021 dollars, cost about $15,000…or a slightly-used Ford Mustang V8 Coupe. These posed pictures were reminiscent of photos taken during Prohibition, when politicians and police would dramatically pour illegal booze into city sewers for the press…and more often than not take the rest home.


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From World War II to the early 1970s, pinball condemnation swept through the United States. Taking sledgehammers to the pricey pinball machines became an event. Pinball parlors and arcades, which had exploded in the early 1900s, were now closed, the owners heavily fined.

Hoosier joined right in. Indiana politicians and law enforcement didn’t mince words when it came to denouncing pinball machines: “They corrupt the morals of the youth of the community” (Jeffersonville Sheriff Kenneth Groth, 1959); and “A law enforcement problem that requires constant vigilance (Hammond Police Chief John Mahoney, 1957); and “Their operation tends to promote official corruption and racketeering” (South Bend grand jury report to Circuit Court Judge Dan Pyle, 1938).


Here the article delves into the past on “How Pinball Haters Had Reasons and I cut out quite a few sections`


That’s as rigged as rigged can get, folks.


In Indiana, a famous 1957 case established this fixing as an illegal gambling practice: Tinder v. Music Operating Inc., spawned Indiana Statute 10-2330.


Burns Ind. Stat. Ann. § 10-2330 — “Recording Device.” — A meter, indicator or counter displaying the number of free games won or the number of games credited from the deposit of a coin on a pinball machine is a recording device within the meaning of Burns Ind. Stat. Ann. § 10-2330.


Although the law technically applied only to machines utilizing recording devices, in practice it fell upon any and all pinball machines across the state. Thousands of pinball machines were sold, destroyed, impounded, hidden or repurposed, although only a fraction of them actually violated the statute. It would take 11 years for Indiana’s attorney general to make the distinction official (1968’s OAG Official Opinion No. 32: Pinball Machines as Gambling Devices).





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The article you see here was listed on the official Orange Bean, Indiana website`