Bingo Pinballs

Created on 9-24-2010 _ Last update 11-30-2016


It’s really hard to say where it all started; but the concern about pinballs and their needing to be eliminated and/or have legislation applied to them dates back into the 30s and ran on through 40s and 50s to finally catch up with the bingos some time in 57’ with the Korpan Decision and it’s impact on the One Balls and Bingos was gigantic although we’d still have these games for years to come. During this period, more than once the idea of “Banning-the-Bingos” was certainly on the table and 1967’ almost ended pinballs altogether. It’s a huge story, still mostly untold and likely mute and immaterial these days _ United and the bit-players were driven out of the industry altogether and a person could likely make a career out reporting on this Era _ laugh _ So for starters, I’ll just go ahead and focus on the modified bingos and a few states to paint a broad overview of the period.


Bingos like the stripped Big Time below I find fascinating, knowing darn well that no one went to all that trouble without good reason. Without first hand intelligence from an operator it’s likely we’ll never truly know this small piece of the bingos _ But although said, I think it boils down to the simple story that there were some owner/operators that were not going to pay the taxes being imposed on the bingos, period! All said-and-done, at the federal-level the government finally imposed a $250 Federal Tax on the bingos and separate from this, many states and cities had local taxes that also applied _ These taxes roughly equated to half the cost of most new bingos and in most cases exceeded the cost of a used bingo by three-and-four times its value _ For many operators “connected-up” or not, this was simply out of the question.


~ For them, while the dust was settling: The order-of-the-day was to run, duck, and dodge rather than comply! ~

This picture above is one of some 12 bingos that were posted together for sale in 2009 and were all modified to similar extreme, obviously off the same route, that was likely in Pennsylvania where the sale originated. As the bingos were being swept up in the “gambling devices” controversy surrounding them, the individual state laws and rules were changing and there was just enough confusion (real or alleged) between state and federal law to allow a shell-game to play out. Bewteen that and changing direction with in the individual states, there was just enough wiggle-room for the operators to avoid compliance and keep their bingos earning on route, by disguising them and shuffling them around.


The first round of subterfuge originated with Bally themselves, releasing the Queen Machines and the Barrel and Fun games to work around the “Free Play” laws in states like Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania _ Often referenced as Ohio Dime games, these bingos dumped the replay meters and placed stepped-scores in the backglass and that worked for a while _ If no games were being registered on a meter, then they weren’t being kicked-off and paid on.




The "free plays" awarded by a multiple coin pinball machine are a prize because they have some value to the player either in playing additional games without charge or receiving a "payoff," and where "free plays" are won predominantly by chance rather than skill for a consideration by virtue of the coins placed in the machine, it is a lottery per se. State v. Wassick, 191 S.E.2d 283 (W. Va.).


To build upon this, the “For Amusement Only” signs started appearing to help visually “ally” any concern that the machines might be being ill-used.


As the fight against these pins raged on, it was being fought on several fronts, but the major argument was that the bingos were to be considered gambling machines because the “players could change/alter the odds and features of the machines by putting in more coins” and why on earth would that be true, unless they were gambling devices – A pretty compelling argument being voiced and heard across the country. Hence, the multi-coin pinball references and the next evolution of changing many of the bingo names over to Single Coin. This step is where some of the confusion came into play in areas like Ohio and Pennsylvania where first they were allowed, then OK’d only by extension, and then outlawed altogether – etc.


_ Some Single Coin Notes _






_ Some Mulit-Coin Notes _





_ Some Increasing Odds Notes _


Mayors Nest


The day after Daniel F. (for Francis) McDevitt took office as Democratic mayor of Reading, Pa. last January, he made a florid announcement: he was going to drive out the gamblers. He gave pinball-machine operators 24 hours to get rid of some 1,000 "multi-coin" machines (in which players can insert a number of nickels to boost payoff odds). But Mc-Devitt's crusade was a resounding flop. After 19 days, in which three pinball distributors and two operators were arrested, he lifted the ban. His reason: the city (pop. 114,200) could not legally outlaw the machines. But Daniel McDevitt warned citizens nevertheless that Reading's 150-man force would maintain "sharp vigilance" to prevent gambling. Vowed the mayor: "We shall not permit the location of such devices near schools."




Arkansas Code


5-66-111. Pinball machines, etc.

(a)(1) Any coin-operated pinball machine or other device that is designed so that more than one (1) coin can be inserted so as to give the player additional odds in making a high score or winning an additional free game is unlawful.

(2) The operation of the coin-operated pinball machine or other device described in subdivision (a)(1) of this section is a misdemeanor that is punishable by the imposition of a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one (1) year, or both.

(b) It is the intent of this section to prohibit the use of so-called "bingo"-type pinball machines, the interstate transportation of which is prohibited by 15 U.S.C. § 1172.

(c)(1) A coin-operated amusement device, including a pinball machine, that takes only one (1) coin for each player for each game and that is equipped with flippers that can be activated by the player to propel a ball back onto the playing surface of the machine so as to prolong the playing time and increase the score attained by the player and upon which not more than twenty-five (25) free games can be won by the player are specifically designated as an amusement device.

(2) The use of an amusement device described in subdivision (c)(1) of this section is declared to be legal so long as all state and municipal taxes have been paid and the owner of the amusement device has obtained a permit, filed a bond, and paid the privilege tax required by § 26-57-401 et seq.






Even in this small group of excerpts it’s easy to see how convoluted things were _ The rules from state-to-state varied, the day-to-day direction within some states was varying, and the Feds were really helping. The Supreme Court was refusing to hear cases that were being pushed their way, the upper district courts were disagreeing with some state decisions _ The window was open not to comply, so inter-mixed with the crackdowns and seizures, we saw the games stay on route, we saw Bally continue to release games, we saw court battles across the country, and we saw the shell-game continue to play out.







_ Seizures Related _



The authorities trying to weld these directions had to be working off lists of what was acceptable and what was not. The game names started disappearing and the cabinets were being repainted, so likely the law-boys were also working off of pictures _ Probably the Press Release images accompanied by a list of Bingos by name _ Later by Features, so we start seeing them stripped off the machines too.


In these affected areas _ In the End:


Only one card was allowed

No Extra Balls were allowed

Advancing Odds were not allowed

Basically all coin-play features were restricted

Single-Coin play for Amusement Only was the order-of-the-day

Bowl-a-Line was the acceptable name, even phasing out Single-Coin



Even later, up into the late 60s the laws were still being settled out to try and bring some cohesive direction for every one to follow, and that is where the Type II and Type III designations came into play. None-the-less, shell-game continued on and that even led to many bingos being modified with flippers.




This matter comes before me pursuant to a citation issued by the Department of Revenue ("Department") against Scott Sheets, d/b/a S&S Amusements for violating S.C. Code Ann.  12-21-2720(A)(3) (Supp. 1995), by operating a nonpayout type in-line pin game without the proper license at Porter's Quick Stop. After notice to the parties, a hearing was conducted on November 4, 1996.


·        This Division has subject matter jurisdiction in this case.


·        Notice of the date, time, place and nature of the hearing was given to all parties.


·        On April 4, 1996, during an inspection of Porter's Quick Stop, Revenue Officer Kermit Hines issued an administrative violation for operating the "Miss Nevada" (Serial #862632) without a Type III machine license.


·        The Department inspected and photographed the Miss Nevada machine and in its Final Determination Letter dated July 17, 1996, the Department determined that the "Miss Nevada" is an in-line pin game machine and is required to have a Type III license.








_ Again, there was history behind this history _ A Snap Shot of the States in 54’ _





~ This was going to dramatically change! ~


But through it all, the Feds never lost sight of their agenda to capitalize on the money associated with this industry _ Uncle Sam wanted his share and he was going to get it. For Washington D.C the bingos meant one thing and only one thing _ Money _ Regardless of the intent and the fallout of the Korpan Decision, the Feds laid out their simple rule: If you wanted to operate a bingo pinball, you had to purchase a $250 dollar Federal Tax Stamp for the machine!


BB Sept 14th, 1959


BB Jan 9th, 1961


As stated, my goal here was to kind of focus on why we see so many of the modified bingos and brush a wide overview. I will visit this area a few more times in the future to focus more on the law piece. For now it’s probably safe to say that the biggest thing I didn’t touch upon was how many of the states were looking at outlawing the bingos altogether and in fact, many states like Oregon did. This was some of the in-state confusion, their going back-and-forth between “no bingos” and “let’s just tax them” – etc. Part of the state vs. fed confusion, where the Korpan Decision was interpreted by many states as direction to eliminate the bingos.


It took a while, but this controversy, newer video technology, and gambling-meccas like Las Vegas eventually wiped out the bingo industry!

















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~ Another Snippet! ~