Oakland Expected to Lift 80-Year Ban on Pinball Machines

California city to decriminalize pinball machines when city updates its gambling laws this week.

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The city of Oakland, Calif. is expected to lift its 80-year ban on pinball machines when the City Council's public safety committee meets this week to approve the measure, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Thousands of cities across the United States, including Oakland, banned pinball in the 1930s because the machines were used for gambling. At the time, they did not have flippers, and people paid a nickel to play, unable to control where the ball traveled.

"It had the illusion of skill but was mostly a game of chance, sort of like the coin toss at the county fair," director of the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda Michael Schiess told the paper. "All you had to do was pull the plunger back and see what happened next."

Flippers were invented in the 1940s and the game grew in popularity, despite the bans. Still, some cities, like Beacon, N.Y., enforced the ban as recently as 2010. The Pacific Pinball Museum even had to register as a nonprofit and remove all coin slots from machines to be in accordance with the law. In San Francisco, business owners need a license to have pinball machines in their establishments.

However, the pinball machine ban in Oakland has been forgotten since the World War II era, the paper reports. The measure, which goes before City Council tomorrow, is part of a larger campaign to update gambling laws in the city. This will also include a ban on Internet sweepstakes offers.

Earlier this year, a Massachusetts town lifted a 32-year ban on coin-operated arcade games. The town of Marshfield originally banned arcade games in 1982 on the grounds that they were too addictive for children.

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