The Fascinating History of Pinball and Why It Was Banned in New York City Until 1976

Great Big Story explores the fascinating history of pinball in New York City, why the game was banned in 1940 and the reasons that ban continued for decades. The ban was finally lifted in April 1976, when the state ruled that pinball was a game of skill rather than a game of chance.

In 1940, pinball machines were banned in New York City. Like most contraband, this simply pushed pinball underground. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the “Salvage for Victory” campaign called on Americans to turn in scrap metal to bolster the war effort. As a result, then New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia went on a hunt for pinball machines. By February 1942, more than 3,000 machines has been confiscated, turning roughly 2,500 of them into one ton of metal for the war. Unfortunately for pinball enthusiasts, the ban in New York lasted for decades, outliving LaGuardia, who died in 1947.