Oakland, California lifts its 80-year pinball ban

It was considered a form of gambling... before flippers were added.

Oakland, California has recently lifted an 80-year ban on pinball machines.

Stern's Iron Man Pro Vault Edition pinball cabinet.

As reported by the Mercury News, the Oakland City Council has finally gotten around to amending this silly law that was originally established due to pinball's initial classification as a form of gambling.

This made more sense back in the day because prior to 1947 pinball didn't actually have flippers, so it was vastly more chance oriented.

Thankfully, it sounds like the ban wasn't actually enforced. In fact, the founder of the Pacific Pinball Museum in the neighboring city of Alameda, Michael Schiess, didn't even know it was still going on. "I certainly knew pinball was illegal, but I didn't know it was still illegal," he told Mercury News. "Those types of laws aren't really enforced now."

"It was a form of gambling, and there was a lot of money made in pinball gambling," he explained.

President of the International Flipper Pinball Association, Josh Sharpe, said these sorts of antiquated anti-pinball laws are still pretty common because nobody bothers to update them. "It's similar to a lot of other laws that don't make sense today," he said. "It's kind of like having a seven miles per hour speed limit for a horse and buggy."

Sharpe noted that these ridiculous laws are almost always amended with little resistance.

Still, this isn't the first time a US municipality has lifted a long-standing ban against parlour games. In May a Massachusetts town lifted its 32-year ban on arcades, which was originally established to prevent an "urban-type hony-tonk environment."

To commemorate Oakland's new found officially legal pinball, RadioShack, Stern Pinball and the International Flipper Pinball Association have teamed up to hold a month-long tournament of the sport at RadioShack's 3040 East Ninth St. location. The tournament is being played on a Stern Iron Man Pro Vault Edition pinball machine and whoever hold the high score when the tournament ends on 20th September gets to keep the cabinet.

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Jeffrey Matulef

Jeffrey Matulef

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Jeffrey Matulef is the best-dressed man in 1984.


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