In May 1976, in New York City, Roger Sharpe looked nervously as city council members piled into a Manhattan court. Reporters and cameraman had already started setting up their setup. Everyone was eagerly anticipating the court proceedings. Roger Sharpe was a young GQ magazine writer and also worked with the New York Times, but he never ever thought he would get so much attention. He knew a lot of people from teens to the music & amusement associations, were counting on him, but he didn’t realize the whole nation was watching him. Roger was selected for a special task not only for his knowledge and skills but for his amazing hand-eye coordination. He was there to prove that this game was not a game of chance, but skill. He was specially selected to overturn the ban. He was selected to save the game of Pinball.
Why did pinball become illegal
The official 18th amendment went into effect on January 16th, 1920, making the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol illegal in the US. Everyone knew gambling was the next target. Coin-operated machines, usually slot machines and betting horses, were under scrutiny. Pinball machines, which came fitted with a coin mechanism, became an easy game of chance. Politicians used their powers to denounce Pinball. Police were given orders to raid parlors, bars, and bowling alleys that had these machines. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, on January 21st, 1942, officially banned the pinball game in New York City, and soon many other cities followed the same suit. All because they thought it’s not a morally correct game, they thought it’s a game of chance and is sort of gambling.
Despite the ban, pinball parlors continued to operate. While Pinball was officially banned in the US, it was still legal to own these machines for private use. And there were some bars who placed pinball machines in dark corners, showing their opposition to the ban. Companies like Bally’s, Williams, and Gottlieb proceeded to develop innovation, like the free ball, electronic games, and double flippers. In the shadow of the ban, the pinball gaming industry somehow managed to survive.
This brings us back to the morning of May 1976 with Mr. Sharpe waiting patiently to enter the court. He was hired by the Music & Amusement Association to be their savior in their pursuit. Roger Sharpe, apart from being a writer and also a great pinball player, was known as one of the best marketer in the country.
In the courtroom, Mr.Sharpe was asked by the committee how skills work in this game. The committee told him that if he could make the ball go through the middle lane on his turn, the committee will belive that the Pinball was not a game of chance rather a game of skills, and he agreed. And in his next turn, he did it! Yes, he did it. He became the savior of the game. He proved that the game of Pinball is the game of skills.