Bingo Pinballs

Created 3/10/2013 _ Last update 10/22/2016


Seattle seems to have had quite a history with Bingos and may even have been the center for most of the activity up here in the Pacific Northwest.


Here’s an excerpt from Silverball News May 1998:

In an article by Russ Jensen (of course) titled “For the Fun of It – Collecting Pinballs,” he tosses around a few names of collectors he knows including:

Daine Smallwood, of Seattle, Wash., specializes in "bingo pinballs," although he has other types in his collection of more than 50 machines. He is an expert on restoring bingos and extremely knowledgeable about the various bingo machines features.

In late 2001 – Mr. Richard Gerlitz wrote me this email:


I was just surfing the Internet and came across your site.  I must say it is very well done.  I have been a fan of bingo machines for the last 25 years. During that time I bought out all the old operators in 4 states (Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana)  I've had over 700 machines and shopped out at least 500 of them.  Sold them to the home market up here in the Seattle area for the last 20 years.

I also worked with another collector/designer up here and we tried to out do one another with designing games.  We first started by making an extra OK position on the screen games.  But the best for each of us is: he made an OK option on a Bally Beach Time.  Designed all the circuitry, built the steppers, etc.  My call to fame was putting revolving numbers behind a Silver Sails screen game.  Using parts from a turning corners game, I designed a way for 4 numbers to rotate behind the screen.  This was activated by a stepper that lit up the letters in "Sails."  Just like the red letters in "Silver." The circuitry was also incorporated into the proportioning circuits, so it worked with the reflex unit.  I also wired it into part of the red letter games.

Anyway, I could go on and on.  Couple of things I wanted to point out about your site.  The Sea Fair glass is a converted Big Show glass.  These games were only run in the Seattle area.  We have a yearly event called Sea Fair and this was an attempt to please the city fathers.  Also in King County, where Seattle is located, you could only pay off odds up to 160.  That is why on the glass they only go up to 160.  Other games in Seattle had to have the higher numbers painted out.

Also, it is a small thing, but on your Designers page the photo you show is not the Reflex unit.  Your photo is of the mixer and spotting disc unit.  The Reflex unit is located on the lower part of the back door and is a small square unit with copper wipers on one side, and 2 small steppers on the other.

Keep up the good work.  If I can ever be of any help, give me a call at: XXX-XXX-XXXX

Thanks, Richard

You gotta love that – right!!!

A man following his passion as far as you can possibly go, short of working as a bingo eng for Bally or United.

- Screen Games -

The “Magic Screen” games 1st came out in the years 1958 thru 1959, led off by Carnival Queen in Oct of 58 (See Jeffery Lawton’s book on Bally Bingo Pinballs)

The basic concept of these games was to leave the #’s alone and to change the win lines. They did this by adding in colors to the bingo card and offering the player several cards to choose from:

Along with CQueen there was Sea Island, Ballerina, and Cherry Picker in this first group of Screen Games. On the backglass where the letters “A” through “G’ which were indicators for how many of the screens you were allowed to choose from. You didn’t automatically get 8 screens to select from, you had to earn them.

At the start of the game

(more to come)

- Red Letter Games -

1959’ brought a new twist to this concept and Bally introduced their series of  “Red Letter” games also know as the “OK” games.

These are the games I most often hear referred to by people as their most “Favorite Bingo” pinball machines, which included County Fair, Laguna Beach, Can Can, Lido, and Roller Derby just to name a few.

The “OK” feature basically offered two more screens where one could group together fewer numbers in the orange section for some neat benefits.

One benefit was for the player to only need two numbers in the orange which awarded a free replay with guaranteed features, which varied depending upon which red letter you were able to lit. 3 or more in the orange section paid off at the higher green line odds.

All-and-all an interesting concept with win-win possibilities for both the owners and players.

Here is some further detail from Phil Hooper’s site:

A next game award on steroids. On a section scoring game, there is an orange section on the magic screen.

Two or more balls in the orange will give you a free game with guaranteed minimum odds and features lit (you could still deposit more coins/credits to try and further improve the scores/features).

One of the letters in the name of the game on the backglass would be lit in red, and the corresponding letter on a center S/I cards strip would define the guaranteed minimums.

The OK game was also called a red letter game on later model bingos and they added another level to the game play.

Do you take the two in the orange and hope for a better game next time, or do you forget the orange, move the screen to a different position and go for a high payout this game?

The first word in most of these game titles included 6 letters: Laguna, Can Can, Roller, and County – and this is how the red letter feature was shown to the player. Under each letter were two light bulbs, one white and the other red. As the red letter climbed up through each word, the odds and features for the free game if won – increased

To collect the red letter game Jeffery points out: THAT YOU MUST HOLD THE “R” BUTTON DOWN TO GET IT.


In his book he reminisces a bit with a cute little story on how they basically stumbled across this secret while he and his buddy teamed up with a guy who was playing this “really fancy” game that showed up one day in the local soda shop.


Now what does all this mean? How did Richard and his buddy add a “Extra OK” position on the screen games? Well looks like I am gonna have to call him up, because I have absolutely no idea.


- “OK” Option on a Bally Beach Time -


(more to come)


- Revolving #’s behind a Silver Sails -


(more to come)


Dave From Seattle Shares Some Wonderful Memories


(I received this correspondence from Dave in a March 2003 email)


When a lad of thirteen or fourteen I used to hang around guys who played the bingo pinball machines at the ice creamery and the bowling alleys in my neighborhood. You know, I never saw a female play one. Hmm. Who's the smart one of the species? :)

The smell of a bingo pinball is unique to anything -- a combination of oil and ozone and stale cigarette smoke. The images of the brown strips burned wood where players left their cigarettes burning, or the water stains where occasional drinks would get spilled. The sounds of the stepping switches rattling off ABCD E F G, the pops of the trip bank switches when a super section would light up, or the punk punk punk when 1st Extra Ball would light on a single nickel are all sounds that make them a league of their own.

My granddad was janitoring one of these bowling alleys and they had a ShowTime and a County Fair. I would do anything I could to scrounge up nickels to play these on the weekends while he vacuumed and mopped.  I learned how to jack up the machine using matchbooks under the right rear leg so the balls would roll down the 1-8-(14)-19-23-24 side to make it easier to get a five-in-line. Occasionally it worked! In those days, the maximum payout in our city was 160 replays. So if the odds jumped to 160 96 32, that was tiggest game with a five in line. Anyway, I'd play these at 5 in the morning so no one would watch.

My granddad would wait until the owner came in and collect the winnings. The owner put a stop to that after about six consecutive weeks of $8 winners. Cheapskate!

I remember playing the County Fair one time and a police officer started poking around the front window. I was a teen ager at the time so it was obviously illegal for me to be playing the machine. I had won a number of games but when I saw him pull up I turned the machine off and hid underneath it while my grandfather ran the buffer. Of course I had forgotten that all the games go away when turning on the power again, so I lost all my winnings for that day. My nickels were gone, too!

While looking in the newspaper one day three years ago, a fellow was selling two bingo games to prepare for a move. I went out to his house and here was a Broadway and a ShowTime. I had $400 in my pocket cash and offered him that amount if he would deliver them, take them apart, and brought them to my house (about 20 miles away). I was so happy owning a ShowTime. And this one had odds to 600 480 192! So a year later I'm looking in the paper and here is an add for bingo pinballs (plural). So I call up the number, go out to the fellows house, and he has 15 of these things lined up in his garage! Many of these units were in excellent condition (and priced accordingly). So I started playing the County Fair that he had and could not lose. Four in lines, five in lines, huge odds, OK games, everything was going my way. I walked out of the garage owning the County Fair and so in my collection are two of the games I loved as a teenager. And I met one of the great technical geniuses of bingo pinball that day, Richard Gerlitz. Too bad he is getting out of the business. The man is stunning in his knowledge of working of the machines -- and he is a nice guy! The machine he sold me was perfect then and is perfect now. The backglass is spectacular. It is the pride of the fleet!

There are other stories involving Laguna Beach, Roller Derby, and a number of others whose names have faded into the past, watching the repairmen come out when a problem existed and open up the back and by reading the schematic be able to make it work again. Only once do I recall watching them take an old broken machine out and replace it with a different one. And once in a while they would loosen up the reflex unit  to increase the chances of winning big. It was absolutely fascinating to me as a teenager to look inside the back, and now that I am in my fifties, they are no less magical even though I own three and am seriously considering purchasing two more. (A Lido and a Bounty)

Thanks for the bandwidth. Hope you enjoyed!

Dave L, Seattle



















Seattle Game – Bally Sea Fair