Pinball is Legal in Indiana, After 61 Years

It’s official: pinball is legal in Kokomo, Indiana. Wait, it was illegal?

Last week, Mayor Greg Goodnight lifted the city’s ban on pinball that has been in place since 1955. Police Chief Rob Baker then played the first legal game of pinball in Kokomo in over 60 years.

Baker was apparently the only person in City Hall at the time who hadn’t illegally played pinball during the 61 years the ban was in place, so the honor naturally fell to him.

Mayor Goodnight signed the document on December 13, on top of a pinball machine in a record store owned by Mike Wilson, who joked that he’s been selling alcohol illegally in his store but never realized he was also illegally allowing customers to play pinball.

Kokomo, Indiana isn’t the only city that has banned pinball at some point in its history: New York City had a pinball ban in place from the early 1940s to 1976. Los Angeles also banned pinball from 1939 to 1974, at which point the California Supreme Court overturned the ban. Similar bans existed in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City, to name just a few. Pinball was still illegal in Oakland, California right up until 2014.

Why ban pinball in the first place? Many lawmakers in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s saw the game as a form of gambling, and – which is even worse – one that required little or no skill.

Pinball Is Legal, What’s Next?

Whac-a-mole game
Image Courtesy of The Notorious L.E.E

Presumably, now that the Kokomo community has legalized pinball, it’s only a matter of time before they start lifting the ban on other, equally dangerous forms of entertainment: such as billiards, Pro Bowler, and Whac-A-Mole. From there, it’s a short leap to lifting the decades-old ban on Rock’em Sock’em Robots, and the next thing you know, the whole town has gone to the dogs playing Space Invaders.

If they aren’t careful, everyone in Kokomo will soon be staying out late playing retro arcade games while listening to The Who. Mayor Greg Goodnight even quoted the song “Pinball Wizard” as he signed the criminal game into law: “This is pretty ironic. As we look back, I was reflecting that ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball. From Southway up to Morgan Street, I think I played them all.” He went on: “For us to now eliminate this ordinance and bring pinball back to its popular stature here in Kokomo, we think this is nice.”

Nice, indeed.

Just watch your step around those pinball machines, Kokomo.