Sin City. Located some 270 miles north-east of Los Angeles, Las Vegas from the outside in never really struck me as a city I ever wanted to visit. I have a couple of friends who swear by the place, and go annually for a full two-week vacation. They’ve sung its praises for years, and so I finally relented, and managed a three-day visit there earlier this year, after finding myself a few hours away at Arcade Expo 4.0 in Banning, CA.
It would be fair to say that Vegas is exactly what I expected. It’s a smorgasboard of lights, noise, hotels, casinos and chaos. A real assault on the senses. One thing’s for sure: the ‘town that never sleeps’ is geared up to taking your money one way or another.
Aside from being a tourist doing touristy things while in town, there was one attraction above all else that I really wanted to visit, and that was the Pinball Hall of Fame. I’d read a lot about it over the years. I’ll save myself a job here and quote from their website:
The Pinball Hall of Fame is an attempt by the members of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world’s largest pinball collection, open to the public. A not-for-profit corporation was established to further this cause. The games belong to one club member (Tim Arnold), and range from 1950s up to 1990s pinball machines. Since it is a non-profit museum, older games from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are the prevalent, as this was the ‘heyday’ of pinball. There are no ‘ticket spitters’ here (aka kiddie casinos or redemption). It’s all pure pinball (and a few arcade novelty games) from the past. And since it’s a non-profit, excess revenues go to non-denominational charities.
So this isn’t your average arcade – given its genuine not-for-profit status, significant contributions have been made to local charities each year as a result of its efforts.
The facility is away from the main strip, so you’ll probably want to drive or Uber your way there. What immediately struck me on arrival, is the lack of ceremony about the place. The focus is on the games, not the decor. There’s no huge flashing light rig as you’d expect at other Vegas attractions. Clearly the mantra is “build it and they will come”.
What can I say about the Pinball Hall of Fame? Wall-to-wall pinball. Pure and simple.
From there, walk in any direction and swathes of pinball assault your senses:
Tim Arnold the owner and main curator of the Hall of Fame could be seen milling around. I didn’t interrupt him as he looked to be very busy. My guess is there’s always something to fix when managing a collection of this size.
Interestingly, you don’t pay an entrance fee. Everything requires a coin to play. Just like arcades of old, you change-up your dollars for quarters and pay as you play. I’ve not experienced this business model before in recent years, but it added to the charm and feel of the place.
There were many highlight and rarities – I’ve captured a few here:
I think you get the idea. But the Hall of Fame isn’t just about pinball. There were a good selection of classic video games to play also.
And then there were older Electro-Mechanical machines dotted around:
So there you have it. The Pinball Hall of Fame is an amazing place. Worth a trip to Vegas alone. The place doesn’t stand on ceremony, but what it does, it does well. If you want to experience a good mix of familiar and rare tables and games, you must visit.
A good litmus test of a place like this, is the maintenance of machines on display. Barring a few tables that were down (an inevitability of a collection of this size), everything worked great. Staff were on hand to answer questions and fix any immediate problems (I trapped a ball on Cirqus Voltaire at one point – this was promptly sorted). There was lots of repair activity going on while we were there, and you get a real sense that this place is a labour of love rather than an out-and-out commercial enterprise.
By coincidence, a video has just been uploaded today by Jeff (from the excellent 720 Zone site) to YouTube giving a quick walkthrough of the place this month (August 2018):
Great to have an up to date snapshot of the place, because I read recently there is talk of a potential new location to house the collection, nearer Vegas’ main strip with bigger premises and a more prominent location – I hope this comes off as the place deserves a much wider audience – the totality of what it houses should appeal to both enthusiast and casual player.
The Pinball Hall of Fame does great work. You may recall the write up of The Pinball Circus I did a few weeks back – this machine is housed at the Hall of Fame. It truly is a hidden gem amogst the bright lights and madness of Las Vegas. It is clearly here to stay, and long may it continue.
A visit is highly recommended. I will be back for sure.
Thanks for reading this week.