Gambling, Pingames & the Shifting Sands of Manufacturer Perspectives
Nicholas Baldridge, Steven Doellefeld, & Dennis Kriesel
While conducting research on 1960s Bally Chief Designer Ted Zale, one of the authors had an off-the-cuff conversation with one of the eminent historians of pinball. There’s a gap in Zale’s work history from the closing of Genco in the summer of 1958 until he shows up at Bally in mid-1962.
Wrestling with where he might have been during those four years, the author posited that perhaps he had spent a stint at Gottlieb.  The historian scoffed, and noted that while some of the other manufacturers had employees that moved from company to company, Gottlieb folks tended to stick to themselves, having little interaction with the other companies. Pressed for more detail, the historian admitted that he didn’t really know why, just that it was that way.
Anyone who has even a passing interest in pinball history is likely aware of the game being banned for gambling purposes, and even banned entirely in certain jurisdictions. In this article, we will give a brief rundown of that history — acknowledging that there are other sources that are definitive references on the matter. We will also break new ground, documenting the schism that existed between Gottlieb and the other companies, and how that in-fighting related to the gambling and jurisdictional bans on pinball.
Looking at pinball through a modern lens, it is hard to grasp the scale of the popularity of the game in its heyday. In 1936, for example, there were 7,500 pinball machines on location in Washington DC alone1.  Given that the population of DC at that time was a little over 600,000, that is a ratio of about one machine for every 84 residents, or about 110 machines per square mile!
Gambling and various pingames have gone hand-in-hand for much of the history of the product. While modern pinball is broadly recognized as a game of skill, the lineage of pingames is one of winning money, not high scores, and as the industry matured, pressure mounted for regulation to counter the negative fallout – perceived or real – of