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The History Of Bally Manufacturing

Bally manufacturing not only made some of the best pinball machines but also owned many different companies. Not only is the history of Bally Manufacturing interesting, but understanding it will give you a better understanding of how pinball came to be the game that it now is.

Bally Manufacturing began in the mind of Raymond Maloney in 1932 with the Ballyhoo machine. The company evolved into a top pinball machine developer in the 1980s, producing some of the most famous machines on the market. After various owners and names, it is now called Bally Technologies.

Below, we’ll go into more detail about the history of pinball around the time Bally Manufacturing came onto the scene. We’ll also discuss Bally Manufacturing’s own history too, while also giving some examples of Bally pinball machines.

History Of Bally Pinball

Raymond Moloney was a salesman for Gottlieb & Co. for many years prior to getting into the pinball game himself. He was a great salesman that got tired of waiting for new machines to be released. He then decided to come up with his own game. The machine became the Ballyhoo, introduced in 1932.

This game was a major success, with Maloney producing around 50,000 of these games. Due to the success, Raymond named the company after their hit and called it Bally. This was the beginning of Bally Manufacturing, which was originally called Lion Manufacturing.

New Entertainment

But Bally did not focus solely on pinball machines, as instead they would go on to improve slot machines as well. At the time, pinball games, casino games, and other household games were very popular as it offered new forms of entertainment to the masses.

But when World War 2 began, Bally stopped making any type of machine. The war and changing gambling laws eventually led to pinball becoming illegal, forcing them to stop production. The company kept running and actually made airplane parts and munitions for the war. This had helped keep them afloat since the pinball industry had been effectively destroyed.

1950s-1970s

After the war and throughout the 1950s, Bally focused on making bingo machines, pay out machines and slot machines. They didn’t make many pinball machines until after Moloney died in 1958.

Five years after his death the company was bought by a group of investors. One year later, in 1964, the company made a big leap in the slot machine industry making what they said was the first of its kind. This was an Electro-Mechanical slot machine that soon transformed Las Vegas casinos.

Bally Wulff

At this time, they bought a German company called Guenter Wulff-Apparatebau which became known as Bally Wulff. This company was based in Germany, focusing on home-based games and pushed toward casino games. They had indeed seen success with the EM slot machines first. They also targeted markets in Italy and Spain, though most of their focus was on Germany.

Bally then bought Midway Manufacturing which would serve as their pinball division. They would focus on pinball machines and eventually other arcade games too. The company then started trading publicly as well. During the 1960s, they dominated the slot machine market especially, covering 90% of it.

1970s

Bally made massive steps forward in the 1970s, attempting to get into the casino business in Atlantic City. They failed due to the head of the company, William. T. O’Donnell, being forced to resign. O’Donnell had been involved with organized crime leading to his resignation. Although he denied these allegations, there were many statements that said otherwise.

Bally finally ended up getting permits and licenses to open Park Place Casino in 1979. With Midway they had also entered the home computer game industry with their ‘Bally Professional Arcade’ game. This would compete with the Atari 2600, but it was a bit more expensive.

1980s

From the late 1970s through the early 1980s, Midway was Bally’s main source of income, with the majority of it coming from pinball machines. It also entered into the arcade game development business, acquiring licenses for Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Space Invaders. 

Some of their pinball machines at the time included:

  • Fireball 1 and 2 – 1972, 1982
  • Boomerang – 1974
  • Bow and Arrow – 1974
  • Hokus Pokus – 1975
  • Wizard! – 1975
  • Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy – 1976
  • Playboy – 1976
  • Centaur 1 and 2 – 1979, 1981
  • Mata Hari – 1979
  • KISS – 1979
  • Xenon – 1980

By the mid-1980s they really started expanding, mostly thanks to their pinball successes. They bought the Six Flags chain in 1983, Health and Tennis Corporation of America, and opened up their own Health and Fitness Gyms.

They then bought the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, MGM Grand Reno and Golden Nugget in Atlantic City. All of these hotels had become rebranded under the Bally name after purchasing.

Late-1980s Onwards

In 1988 Bally had to sell their Six Flags chain and gave up their pinball sector. Midway was sold to Williams, although they still continued to use the name Bally for their Midway products. This was most likely due to the success the name had created with their previous machines.

Some of the titles that then came out with the Bally name attached include:

  • Harley-Davidson – 1991
  • The Addams Family – 1992
  • Black Rose – 1992
  • Creature From The Black Lagoon – 1992
  • Doctor Who – 1992
  • Twilight Zone – 1993
  • Judge Dredd – 1993
  • World Cup Soccer – 1994
  • Theatre Of Magic – 1995
  • Attack From Mars – 1995
  • Indianapolis 500 – 1995
  • Cirqus Voltaire – 1997
  • NBA Fastbreak – 1997 (allowed two machines to connect together to play head-to-head)
  • The Champion Pub – 1998
  • Cactus Canyon – 1998
  • Revenge From Mars- 1999

But Williams’ presence in the pinball industry tapered off in the 1990s. Despite the now classic titles they produced, the pinball industry was dying out – and so was Bally. In 1995 Alliance Gaming bought Bally Gaming International and changed the name to Bally Technologies.

As they attempted to bring more people in with their Pinball 2000 concept on Revenge from Mars, it was clear the end was near for Bally. This machine had been the most advanced so far, with a screen display backglass and holographic targets. It had sold 6,500 machines, but their next Pinball 2000 machine, Star Wars, had flopped.

Changing Hands

By 1999 WMS industries, which was the parent company of Williams, had cut their pinball production. In 2005 WMS made a deal with The Play Factory to sell their rights and licenses. This allowed the Australian company to re-manufacture Bally pinball machines. It also granted them the right to use new hardware systems under the Bally brand.

Today, Bally Technologies is run by Scientific Gaming, producing casino-style machines.

Final Thoughts

Bally Manufacturing has had a long history in the arcade machine business. When they first started focusing on pinball machines in the 1980s, they produced some of the most famous machines in the world. However, with the pinball market declining in the 1990s and 2000s, it was inevitable that Bally would run into trouble, but the name still lives on as one of the greats in the pinball industry.