I remember reading about some US state that banned video games up until something like the mid-seventies, not intentionally, but as collateral damage of a vaguely worded law intending to ban slot machines. But I can't find any reference to it; Google keeps thinking I'm asking about individual games banned because of their content.

Am I remembering correctly, and if so, which state was it?

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    I wonder if law.se might not be a better place to ask?
    – MCW
    Nov 17, 2020 at 10:18
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    FWIW, I cannot find any evidence of this. I wouldn't be surprised if a law was proposed, and then not passed because someone pointed out this potential. I've participated in review of proposed laws and have had a similar experience.
    – MCW
    Nov 17, 2020 at 12:47
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    It's not a US state, but this actually happened not long ago in Greece Nov 17, 2020 at 18:08
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    Not an accidental ban, but Mesquite, Texas did try to regulate video game arcades in the late 1970s/80s. See [smithsonianmag.com/history/… about 8 paragraphs down.
    – Dragonel
    Nov 17, 2020 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


This is probably in reference to several major US municipalities that banned pinball in the mid 20th century.

Often this was because gambling machines were starting to disguise themselves as pinball machines to skirt around anti-gambling laws. However, in at least one case in New York City, pinball itself was purposely banned for about 30 years, because Mayor La Guardia thought the machines were ripping off kids.

The pinball industry got Manhattan courts to overturn the ban in 1976(PDF) when the court found there to be an actual element of skill to the games. Chicago and most other major cities followed in rescinding their bans. However, it looks likely (wasn't able to verify this to my satisfaction) it is still illegal to play pinball in Ocean City, New Jersey on Sundays.

I realize that pinball (usually) is not a "video game". However, "arcade" video games as we know them did not start to appear until the early 1970's and were likely in the same skill/chance boat as pinball in cities that banned pinball. The history of the medium does show an explosion of new games starting in 1976. It's tough to discredit the possibility that the fall of the pinball game bans in the same year might not be entirely unrelated to that.

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    I suspect the rise of new games is unrelated. The technology just was not capable until the mid 70s. The first game pong was only produced in 1972 Many games came from Japan so different laws
    – mmmmmm
    Nov 17, 2020 at 17:06
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    Did pinball machines give prizes? Nov 17, 2020 at 19:19
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    @Acccumulation - Apparently, originally some pinball machines would in fact give back money if you got the ball to go in the right place. It looks like it took an iterative process with lawmakers and courts to arrive at the solution where its OK to give a player an extra (in-game) ball, but not to give back money. That pinball design requirement exists today in modern video games with the common "extra life/ 1Up" mechanic.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 17, 2020 at 21:54
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    @mmmmmm - Well, remember causation can often go in an unexpected direction (or flow in both ways synergistically). It seems possible a growing electronic "arcade" game industry in 1976 might have just gotten to the point where there was enough money involved to make it worth the legal expense of fighting the laws.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 17, 2020 at 21:59
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    Even the pinball ban was about publicly accessible machines. It would've been legal to keep a pinball machine at home for private use. Nov 18, 2020 at 0:49

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