Bally Manufacturing

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This article is about the former pinball manufacturer based in Chicago. For its successor gaming company based in Las Vegas, see Bally Technologies.
Bally Manufacturing
Industry Interactive entertainment
Fate Takeover
Founded 1932
Defunct 1995
Headquarters Chicago
Products Pinball and slot machines, later expanded into casinos, video games, health clubs, and theme parks

Bally Manufacturing, later renamed Bally Entertainment, was an American company that began as a pinball and slot machine manufacturer, and later expanded into casinos, video games, health clubs, and theme parks. It was acquired by Hilton Hotels in 1995. Its brand name is still used by several businesses previously linked to Bally Manufacturing, most notably Bally Technologies.

History[edit]

The Bally Manufacturing Corporation was founded by Raymond Moloney on January 10, 1932, when Bally's original parent, Lion Manufacturing, established the company to make pinball games. The company took its name from its first game, Ballyhoo. The company, based in Chicago, quickly became a leading maker of the games. In the late 1930s, Moloney began making gambling equipment, and had great success developing and improving the mechanical slot machines that were the core of the nascent gaming industry. After manufacturing munitions and airplane parts during WWII, Bally Manufacturing Corporation continued to produce innovations in pinball and slot machines through the late 1950s, and also designed and manufactured vending machines and established a coffee vending service. The company made a brief venture into the music business with their own record label, Bally Records.[1]

Ray Moloney died in 1958, and the company floundered briefly. With the financial failure of its parent company, Bally was bought out by a group of investors in 1963. Throughout the 1960s, Bally continued to dominate the slot machine industry, cornering over 90% of the worldwide market by the end of the decade. In 1964, Bally introduced the first electromechanical slot machine, called the "Money Honey."[2] In the late 1960s, Bally became a publicly traded company and made several acquisitions, including German company Guenter Wulff-Apparatebau (renamed Bally Wulff) and Midway Manufacturing, an amusement game company from Schiller Park, Illinois.

The 1970s[edit]

In the late 1970s, Bally entered the casino business when New Jersey legalized gambling in Atlantic City. This effort moved forward even though the company was temporarily unable to attain a permanent license for the completed casino. During this period, company head William T. O'Donnell was forced to resign because of alleged links to organized crime. Prior to this, Mr O'Donnell strenuously denied any such links.[3] For example, when questioned at the Moffitt Royal Commission (the NSW Clubs Royal Commission) - an investigation held New South Wales, Australia - on alleged criminal activities with US and Australian criminals, he admitted that Genovese Mafia boss, Jerry Catena (Gerardo Catena), once owned shares in the business, "but I bought him out."[3] He also denied knowing Chicago mobster, Joseph Dan Testa, even though Australian Police described Testa "as a representative of Bally who visited Australia."[3]

The company opened the Park Place Casino & Hotel on December 29, 1979.[4][5] Also in the late 1970s, Bally made an entry into the growing market for home computer games. The Bally Professional Arcade, as the machine was called, had advanced features for the time. These included a palette of 256 colors and the ability to play 4-voice music. The machine also shipped with a cartridge that allowed users to do a limited amount of programming on the machine themselves (using the BASIC language), and record their creations on cassette tape. The machine's price point was above the Atari 2600 (its major competitor), and it had a much more limited set of available games. Despite a loyal following, it failed to compete successfully. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Midway became a primary source of income for Bally as it became an early arcade video game maker and obtained the licenses for three of the most popular video games of all time: Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man.[4]

The 1980s[edit]

By the mid-1980s, the company again had a strong balance sheet and began buying other businesses including the Six Flags amusement park chain in 1983, and the Health and Tennis Corporation of America. The health club division, under "Bally Total Fitness", grew during the 1980s and 1990s. The company also purchased several casinos, including the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip (which was subsequently re-branded as Bally's Las Vegas), The MGM Grand Reno (Reno, NV) and the Golden Nugget Atlantic City which was branded Bally's Grand and then later "The Grand-A Bally's Casino Resort". This expansion quickly took its toll on the company's finances, and Bally was soon forced to sell off several divisions, including Six Flags and Bally-Midway. The pinball division, along with Midway, was acquired by Williams Electronics in 1988.

The 1990s[edit]

Under new management in 1992, the newly named Bally Entertainment Corporation focused on the health club business and spun off the game-manufacturing parts of the company. The Aladdin's Castle chain of game arcades was sold to Namco in 1993, and was renamed Namco Cybertainment, Inc. By 1993 the core manufacturing division was the leader in fitness equipment[citation needed] including the Life Fitness brand including 'Life Cycle', 'Life Step' and 'Life Rower' machines. The success was short lived and Life Fitness was sold to the Brunswick Corporation. In 1995, Bally Entertainment was purchased by Hilton Hotels Corporation. Later the casino resorts division of Hilton Hotels became Park Place Entertainment, (later Caesars Entertainment) and in 2005 was acquired by Harrah's Entertainment.

The name[edit]

Many casinos and businesses worldwide took on the Bally name and logo in the maze of ownership, division spin-offs and licensing agreements. Midway continued to use the Bally name for its pinball games, until WMS Industries (the parent company of Williams) ceased pinball production in 1999. On March 31, 2005, WMS Industries struck a deal with Australian company The Pinball Factory to give them a license for the intellectual properties and the rights to re-manufacture former Bally/Williams games in the field of mechanical pinball. In addition, The Pinball Factory also has bought the right to manufacture new games using the company's new hardware system under the Bally brand. Alliance Gaming, which had bought Bally Gaming International in 1995, changed its name to Bally Technologies. Bally Total Fitness and distributor Bally France still use the same 'Bally' logo though any formal business relationships, as of June 2007, are coincidental. The name is most well-known for being in the song, "Pinball Wizard" in the rock opera Tommy and its its soundtrack.

Pinball machines using the Bally brand[edit]

Select Machines Developed by Bally or Bally-Midway[edit]

  • Amigo (1974)
  • Ballyhoo (flipperless) (1932)
  • Ballyhoo (flippers) (1947)
  • Baby Pac-Man (1982)
  • Blackwater 100 (1988)
  • BMX (1982)
  • Boomerang (1974)
  • Capersville (1967)
  • Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1976)
  • Dogies (1968)
  • Eight Ball (1977)
  • Evel Knievel (1977)
  • Fireball (1972)
  • Fireball II (1981)
  • Freedom (1976)
  • Four Million B.C. (1971)
  • Frontier (1980)
  • KISS (1979)
  • Lady Luck (1986)
  • Mata Hari (1977)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man (1982)
  • Nip-It (1972)
  • Playboy (1978)
  • Rampage (1986)
  • Shoot-A-Line (1962)
  • Sky Divers (1964)
  • Strange Science (1986)
  • Strikes and Spares (1978)
  • The Six Million Dollar Man (1978)
  • Vector (1982)
  • Wizard! (1975)
  • Xenon (1980)

Developed by Midway[edit]

Developed by The Pinball Factory[edit]

The Crocodile Hunter Outback Adventure was in development by Australian pinball manufacturer The Pinball Factory. It was abandoned at the end of 2007 due to the death of the main character of the game, Steve Irwin. As of 22 July 2012, no such game was released and the project is presumed dead[according to whom?].

Slot machines[edit]

  • Money Honey (1968)
  • Big Top (1982)
  • Jackpot Riot (1993)
  • Blazing 7s (1993)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bally Records". 
  2. ^ ""Slot Machine History", Online Casino Press". Retrieved 21 June 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c The Age (18 September 1973). Bally chief denies links with mafia. Retrieved from http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=SuFUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=xJADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6965,4528014&dq=joseph+dan+testa&hl=en. Downloaded 26 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b Christian Marfels; 2007, Bally: The World's Game Maker, 2nd ed., Bally Technologies Inc., Las Vegas ISBN 978-1-4243-3207-6
  5. ^ ""Bally Manufacturing Corp.", Encyclopedia of Chicago". Retrieved 21 June 2007.