The public safety committee of Oakland, Calif., will review a measure to legalize pinball Tuesday.
This game, “considered a gambling device,” has been illegal in Oakland for 80 years, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Thanks to the committee, pinball will be legalized just in time for hordes of pinball aficionados to flock to the arcades.
“Oakland banned pinball in the 1930s because the machines — which then lacked flippers — were being used for gambling. People paid a nickel to play, and winners received cash payouts from a bartender, store owner or other proprietor,” the Chronicle writes.
But Oakland isn’t the only city to ban pinball. Apparently there are still many cities where pinball is illegal, or else heavily regulated. While pinball might be a relatively tame avenue for gambling, the state of California is concerned about a growing gambling problem.
Right now the city legislature is working to close Internet sweepstakes cafes, which are “magnets for drugs, prostitution and robberies,” according to Councilman Neil Gallo.
“What you see are poor people lined up on payday with their checks,” Gallo told the Chronicle. “We’re not going to tolerate casinos in Oakland. But pinball — pinball, I have no problem with.”
Gallo’s statement is significant in light of a recent New York Times article describing the growing number of casinos across the U.S., and how it is impacting the poor.
“Not surprisingly, the closer casinos come to where people live, the more likely people are to gamble at one,” the Times reported. “As casinos have spread into de-industrialized cities, dying resorts and gritty urban areas, the rate of gambling participation has grown among lower-income groups.”
People with lower incomes are more likely to take gambling risks, and when they lose, they are reduced farther into poverty. Pinball may be harmless, but the gambling industry suggests otherwise. Today the public safety committee will review Oakland’s new legislation to legalize pinball and ban online gambling cafes, and if the measure passes it will go before the full council in July.