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The Penny Arcade

 The Coin Operated Machine Information Site 



For a name so well known in the amusement machine world, Bally is really the outsider in the clan of slot machine makers. They re-invented themselves, cloned off, sold off bits and were taken over so many times it's hard to see just where the lines are.

Perhaps it all stems from Bally being itself being formed as a spin-off of a parent company (Lion Manufacturing) in 1932. From the start, Bally was a semi-autonomous company intended to make pinball machines under the guidance of its own boss, Raymond Moloney. The name "Bally" was taken from its first machine the "Ballyhoo".

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​     The flyer on the left for Bally's first machine is perhaps the first-ever Bally advertising, note that although the                        company address is the same as the later flyer on the right the company name has not yet become Bally


                                                                                     Ballyhoo 1932

Bally initially concentrated on the flipperless type of pinballs like Ballyhoo. However, by 1938 Bally was making all sorts of slot machines and the company was doing very well, always refining the mechanics and with an eye on electronics in their machines, they were ahead of the competition in machine design in many ways.


             If this early Bally fruit machine is anything to go by they still had much to learn about design & themes

With the coming of the war in 1941 like almost all slot manufacturers, Bally was forcibly switched to the war effort and made munitions and aircraft parts from 1941 to 45.

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                                               Laguna Beach                                                                       Palm Beach


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                                                 King Tut                                                                       Stock Market (backflash)

​  Although not the only maker of bingo pinballs Bally did make some of the very best. although flipperless and giving the player no control over the balls these were extremely popular and became more and more complex in both play options and player understanding. Backflashes often had rotating scorecards and player-controlled options. Even today they are strangely compelling to play. Although not obviously a gambling machine the opportunities for exchanging the often high numbers of replays for cash or prizes were quickly taken up by the operators.

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​                                            Two of Ball's desirable (but very large) consoles,Draw Bell & Triple Bell


By the mid 50's they were concentrating on flipperless pinballs and console slot machines and times were good, so good the company branched out into the music business and formed its own record label "Bally Records" in 1955,  the idea for was a good one, a record label to fill the need for records for the booming jukebox industry, in the strange rudderless way that was to haunt the company constantly in the future they seemed unsure how to move forward in this venture and decided to produce all their records in three speeds 33.3, 78, and 45 RPM. needless to say this over expensive production cost along with poor judgement in the music world caused the record business to close in early 1958 , they had just one mediocre hit, "I Dreamed" by Betty Johnson which reached number 9 in the Billboard top ten in 1957. 

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The failure of the record business was the precursor of bad times, about the time the record label closed down  Ray Moloney died and the parent company, Lion Manufacturing, began to fail. Bally floundered along with no direct direction to follow for over four years until bought up by a group of investors in 1963.

Always a front runner in slot design and the use of electrics in slots the new owners pointed Bally in the right direction for once and in 1964 they launched a new type of one-armed bandit. The "Money Honey" This electromechanical slot machine took the slot world by storm and pretty much crushed all opposition and by 1970 they claimed to have 90% of the worlds slot machine market, although, like other claims the company made at the time, this might be a little fuzzy around the edges. They also claimed the money honey was the "First electromechanical slot machine" it was far from that, in fact during this period Bally acquired the German company Gunter Wulff who had been making electro-mechanical slots very successfully since the 1950s. The real winner with the money honey and its successors was the ability to include a hopper payout system allowing for payouts of pretty much any amount, overcoming the problem casinos had been struggling with for years due to mechanical slots being limited to an actual machine payout of up to about 20 coins plus a drop jackpot.


​                         The machine that spelt the end of the mechanical slot machine the "Money honey"



    The massive success of the Money Honey spawned a range of machines based on the original including this rare

                                                                            two-reel dice themed game

Again, flushed with success (and a large bank balance) the company dived headfirst into a programme of expansion, as well as the Wulff company Bally acquired Midmay Manufacturing in an attempt to grab some of the coin-operated games market Sega was quickly dominating.


                                                                                     Midway "Duck Hunt"


With all this money flowing in from the slot machine and coin-operated games machines divisions, Bally looked to the big time, casinos.


​                                                    Park Palace Casino and Hotel Atlantic city


By the late 70's Bally had built a large modern casino in Atlantic City but were delayed in opening it as they were refused an operating licence. It was that old slot machine company affliction "organised crime" that had come back to haunt them, not the first slot machine company to face that music.

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​                 Dan Testa (arriving in Australia)            Jerry Catena (according to Forbes the 4th richest Mobster in the USA)

Bally's CEO at the time W.T.O'donnell was being accused of being in league with both the mafia boss Jerry Catena and the Chicago mobster Dan Testa.   O'Donnell vehemently denied the claims but at a government hearing in Australia looking into involvement in the slot industry by the mob it was proved that Testa at least had travelled to Australia as a Bally representative. O'Donnell was forced to resign and Bally was able to open their Park Palace Casino on Dec 29th 1979. However, the cost of building and delay had been expensive and it would take time to re-coop the money.

A failed attempt (in typical Bally style) to get in on the home computer games market that Atari was dominating didn't help their finances., Their machine the "Bally Professional Arcade" had many advanced features over the Atari including 256 colours and 4 voice sound, it also came with a cartridge that allowed the owner to do limited programming in BASIC and save their work to cassette, however (also in typical Bally Style) they produced too few games and add ons for the machine and it died an early and expensive death.


​                                                         Bally's "Professional Arcade" home gaming computer


Bally was again underperforming and it was the inspired acquisition of Midway sometime earlier that saved them, Midway was by this time an early leader in the video games market and gaining the licences to make Pac Man, space invaders and Ms Pac Man made them the most profitable division of Bally.


Seemingly still not learning from the past Bally embarked on their biggest expansion programme to date, in the early '80s, boosted by the video game income and steady profits from the Casinos Bally bought the Six Flags amusement park chain, and the huge "Health & Tennis corp of America" health club chain, as well as the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas, the MGM casino in Reno and the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City. Not surprisingly they had once again overreached themselves and this time it was serious. Six Flags was sold off none too soon as it was by then (and continued to be) a money-eating monster, also sold off was the big money earner Midway, this went to Williams electronics along with the pinball division in 1988.


​                            The evolution of the Midway logo, the bottom one is from their time with Williams

Still, directionless the company muddled on till 1992 when yet another new management team decided to sell off all the slot machine manufacturing as well as the amusement arcade division and concentrate on the health clubs. Making the wrong choice yet again the company was forced to sell out to Hilton Hotels in 1995, the health clubs were sold off and Bally(now owned by Hilton) announced their biggest expansion plan of all, the massive Paris Las Vegas casino and hotel complex, this ran well over budget and opened in 1999 at a staggering cost of $760 million. Several more changes of ownership followed in quick succession before the remains of the Bally company were taken over by Harrah's Entertainment in 2005.


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Due to the many spin-offs and buyouts, the Bally name survives in many forms, Midway continued to use the Bally name on their pinballs until Williams ceased pinball production in 1999 and even then the name moved on when the rights to many Bally/Midway pinballs was leased to the Australian "Pin Ball Factory" company. Alliance Gaming who had bought out the slot division changed its name to Bally Gaming in 1995 and were themselves taken over, the name changed to Bally Technology and is a billion-dollar company making modern slot machines today, some health clubs dotted around the USA still use the Bally name.

In its day Bally led the slot machine world and invented many totally new concepts and was never afraid to come up with a very different machine to the competition but their management never really had the insight needed to push it along. Sure it was a massive company at times but it could have been so much more.

Their policy seemed to have always been to see what others were doing successfully and try and grab a slice of it, this worked with the Money Honey and Midway but failed spectacularly in almost every other direction.

​              ​A few of the often groundbreaking games made by Bally

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​                  A rare all mechanical slot "Double Bell"                                            "Double up"

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                  A very late "Draw Poker" video slot             "Big Prize"  One of the last slots based on the Money Honey     



                                                                               A fine array of bingo Pin balls    


​                     If you want a bingo pinball for your collection you better be prepared to find your way through this !!


                             1947 Deluxe Draw Bell                            The slightly odd "Bally Derby" seems to involve machine

                                                                                                                                  gunning racehorses


          In typical Bally style, both these machines seem to be attempts to cash in on existing  successful machines 

          "Rays Track" has hints of the "Paces Races"              &            "super bowler" tries to emulate the far superior                                                                                                                                                Evens/Williams "Ten Strike"


     The high-boy looking very much like an elegant mechanical Slot but  the mech reveals its electronic side



​     two interesting views of play tables, "Draw Bell" with early electro stop button feature & the five-reel "High Hand"


 A policeman prepares to destroy a Bally "Surf Club" during one of the bouts of mass hysteria over slot machines

                                    that grips the USA at regular intervals, if this isn't a crime...what is?





                                 Bally Reliance                                                                     Buckley Bones

  One of the most unusual and collectable machines ever made, But who copied who? Buckley was certainly used to copying other firms machines and Bally made a living at it but these two are so alike and unique what was going on here? Who copied who or did they both have them made by the same outside company?