Oakland, Having No Other Problems, Will Decriminalize Pinball

It’s a weird little sidestory of history that pinball is illegal in lots of place across the country. But, small Massachusetts town or troubled urban metropolis, slowly people are realizing arcade games are not the devil. And that includes Oakland!

Yes, after eighty freakin’ years, the city of Oakland is finally decriminalizing pinball. If you’re wondering why pinball was illegal in the first place, it mostly has to do with gambling. Until 1947, when flippers were introduced, pinball was essentially a game of chance; you paid your money, pulled back the spring launcher, and let your balls fall where they may; this is where tilting the machine to get a better result came from. In order to make that remotely fun, hitting a certain score or certain bumpers would result in a cash payout, which was gambling and frowned on by the civic leaders of the 1930s.

Needless to say, this ban is taken so seriously and is respected so much that it hasn’t been enforced since the World War II era and there are pinball machines all over Oakland. In fact, the only reason the ban is even being repealed instead of just studiously ignored is that the city of Oakland is revising its gambling laws, saw the ban, and basically said “Wow, this is stupid. Let’s just repeal this and never speak of it again.”

It’s still doing better than other locations. For example, Alameda still has a pinball ban on the books, which is kind of a problem considering it’s also home to a beloved pinball museum. But at least it’s doing better than South Carolina, which appears to equate pinball with smoking; you have to be eighteen to play pinball in the Palmetto State.