The History of Bally's: From Chicago's Streets to Global Pioneers

From pinball and planes to delivering awesome American action to the UK, Bally's has an epic history.

The History of Bally's: From Chicago's Streets to Global Pioneers

See the date above our door? Go on, feast your eyes on our red-hot logo and you'll soon spot '1932' sitting proud. See, Bally Casino may be new to these shores, but take a trip across the pond and you’ll find we've got a rich heritage spanning 90 epic years. 

Known as Bally's in the USA, we've been entertaining players since 1932, with plenty of exciting milestones experienced along the way. From the game that started it all to our collection of awesome land-based casinos available to visit today, it's been a wild ride, folks! 

Read on to learn about our incredible history and find out what's made Bally's, well, Bally's.


1930s: Where it all began 

The Ballyverse began in 1932, when a Chicago-based salesman named Raymond Moloney got bored of waiting for new titles to hit the gaming scene. So, in a bold move that's now part of the Bally's DNA, Raymond decided to disrupt the industry with a fresh new game. The name of that game? Ballyhoo Pinball

Pinball fans will know that Ballyhoo was a huge hit with players. Such a big hit, in fact, that Raymond decided to set up his own gaming business! Say hello to 'The Bally Manufacturing Corporation', or 'Bally's' for short.  

Ballyhoo pinball machines set the tone for everything Bally's stands for today – suddenly players could experience entertainment that was low-cost without compromising on thrills. Thousands of Ballyhoo games were sold in the early years, quickly securing Bally’s reputation as a leader in the gaming industry. Something we've never lost!  

By the end of the 30s, The Bally's Manufacturing Corporation was a roaring success, employing 500 people and developing exciting new games year-round for the growing player base.  


1940s: Wars and laws 

Chances are, if you've stepped onto inside an arcade before then you've encountered a pinball machine. But it wasn't always the bright lights and noises that we know and love today! Nuh-uh. 

In fact, the earliest versions of pinball didn’t even feature flippers…something that posed a big problem. See, without the ability to save the ball from exiting the play area, pinball was argued to be a game of luck, rather than skill. Add in a rise in players betting on the outcome of the game and there were some difficult questions about whether the game should be legal.  

It was all change in the early 40s. In a game-changing move, pinball was ruled to be illegal by many US states. But, even bigger, was the announcement of America joining World War II. So, with the war in full swing, there wasn't a lot of time to worry about fighting the new law against pinball.  

Instead, Bally's shifted its energy to support the war effort by manufacturing detonator fuses, airplane parts and munitions, eventually earning an "E" for their excellence in production and contribution. That's the Bally's way.  


1950s: The end of an era  

Chicago might not have the same gambling fame as Vegas or Atlantic City today, but that wasn't always the case. The birthplace of Bally's, Chicago was also home to the early slot industry. So, how did Nevada become the place to be to enjoy a bet? 

Remember the law against pinball in the early 40s? Well, the rules only got stricter during the war. By the 1950s, the only state that legalised gambling was Nevada. And shipping your games across states to Nevada? That was banned too. Cue many Chicago-based gaming manufacturers making the move to the West Coast.  

Sure, Bally's could have followed suit, but Raymond wasn't a fan of cutting 500 jobs from the Chicago scene, so we decided to stick it out and diversify into arcade games. Just when we got into a new groove, though, our founding father, Mr Raymond Maloney, died in 1958 – marking the end of an era for the Bally's family.  

Raymond's sons, Don and Ray Junior, stepped up to the mantle but it was a bumpy ride. Despite winning the rights to legally ship gambling products across state lines, the pot was running low, and they decided to sell the company. 

1960s: Securing a reputation as a slot pioneer  

Ownership of The Bally's Manufacturing Company didn't go too far, though! A group of investors, headed up by long-time Bally's employee William O'Donnell, swooped in to become the new owners in 1964.  

While Bally's' owners may have changed, the entrepreneurial spirit that started it all never faded. So, when a new law passed to legalise the production of slot machines, Bally's swooped on the opportunity. Most of the slot machines sitting pretty on casino floors were old-school makes at that point, so it was time for a fresh take.  

Introducing Money Honey. A revolutionary slot game that combined mechanics with electrics for the first time. Forget using a lever to make the reels spin. It was time to make those reels electric!  

And Bally's didn’t stop there. To combat wily players cheating slot machines, Bally's also spent part of the swinging 60s designing the Slot Data System – the first computerised data system for slot games.  

Folks, this was a big gamechanger. Before the SDS hit the markets, it was estimated that up to 10% of slot revenue was being lost to players cheating the system! The launch of SDS and Money Honey shot Bally's to the forefront of the slot industry. By the end of the decade, Bally's was a staple on casino floors, providing an estimated 9 in 10 slot machines to Vegas. 

1970s: All systems go  

Disco music, bell-bottomed trousers, and the overruling of the pinball prohibition. There are a bunch of things that made the 1970s epic. Ever heard of The Who's 'Pinball Wizard'? You know the one. Hitting jukeboxes across the states just as we entered the 70s, Pinball Wizard nodded to Bally's role in the creating iconic game with a reference to the "Bally table king" and inspired a new wave of pinball fans. 

But remember the law against pinball? It was technically still illegal to play pinball in the US, yet alone become a wizard! So many people were keen to take a shot of the silver ball that eventually, after three decades, the prohibition was ended in '76. Good news for Bally's, especially considering they had just bought their leading pinball competitor, Midway Manufacturing Company. 

That wasn't the only company bought by Bally’s in the 70s, though. If you've read this far, folks, then you should know that things never stayed quiet for long when Bally’s was involved! Nuh-uh. Bally's kept the roll going, with the acquisition of a German-based gaming company signalling the first jump across the pond to continental Europe. 

Times were changing and the laws were too. In 1977, New Jersey finally legalised gambling in Atlantic City. It was time for an immersive Bally's experience. We're talking real, land-based casinos boasting the Bally's name.  

In 1979, Atlantic City locals were in for a treat. The first Bally's casino, sitting smack-bang on the city's coastline and boasting views across the famous boardwalk, opened its doors to players looking for some Bally's action. Sure, the name has changed a few times since '79 (it isn't called Bally's Park Place Casino & Hotel anymore!), but players can still step inside our OG casino today. 

1980s: Making the move to Vegas 

The 80s were all about rock 'n' roll and retro. Arcades became a hot spot for players looking to experience some excitement with their buds – and it wasn't just because they wanted to play pinball. See, video games were the new kid on the block, and everyone wanted a piece of them.  

The hottest arcade game to come out of the 80s? Pac-Man. Staying true to Raymond Maloney's passion for unleashing the hottest new games to the market, Bally's had a part to play in the Pac-Man success. See, it just so happened that Midway (now sitting under Bally's) held the licenses to the game! 

Arcade was booming, and so were brick-and-mortar casinos. Three more Bally's casinos opened in the 80s: MGM Grand in Reno, Golden Nugget Atlantic City, and the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino sitting in pride of place on the Las Vegas strip. 

With a shift in focus towards land-based casinos, and Vegas fast becoming the place to be for gamers looking for exciting entertainment, it was time to make a move. So, after 58 years, the Bally's family packed up and moved to a new home in Las Vegas in 1989. To cement the new focus on casinos, Bally's also made the decision to sell the pinball and arcade division to a different company, called WMS Industries or Williams for short. 

1990s: Changing name 

By the time we hit the 90s, Bally's Manufacturing Company had been entertaining players for 60 years. Now it was time to kick back and check out the lay of the land. Was manufacturing still the best way for Bally's to deliver the exciting entertainment that we'd become known for? The answer was no. 

In 1994, Bally's had a makeover. It was out with "The Bally's Manufacturing Company" and in with "Bally Entertainment"! By revamping our name, we made it clear that our focus was on entertaining our players. Sure, we still had a sub-division called "Bally Gaming" that focused on all things slots, but we were more than just a manufacturing company now. Through it all though, we were still known as Bally's. 


The new millennium 

With a new millennium came even more growth. Remember what happened when we added a volt or two to the humble pinball machine? Now imagine what happened when we entered the digital era!  

That's right, folks. With the tech industry booming, we supercharged our video game systems to pack in new ways to experience epic entertainment. From Hot Shot Progressives to Thrillions, the brains at Bally's churned out fresh new ideas that fast became hits with players on the casino floors. 

And we didn't slow down on the land-based casino front! Over the next decade or so, we opened even more land-based casinos, taking our total today to 14 incredible casino sites available across ten states in the USA.  

Our mission to deliver bold entertainment hasn't stopped with casinos, though. From online sports betting to joining forces with mass media outlets to share the action, Bally's has built quite the name for itself in the entertainment industry.  

Let's talk about the year 2023 for a minute. This was a big one. Sure, we broke ground with the first and only casino in our hometown of Chicago, but it was also the year that we hopped across the pond. That's right, we're talking about the launch of Bally Casino!  

Delivering all the action of Bally's to the UK, now online players can enjoy the All-American gaming experience we've become known for. We're talking the freshest new games on the block, awesome rewards and, of course, the famous 5-star American service.  

Plenty of things have changed over the last 90 years, but the important things have always stayed the same. Raymond Maloney's dedication to our players, his passion for games and playing for the fun of it, and, of course, the Bally's name – it's all here, folks. Check out our name above the door and you'll see the Bally's name as written by Raymond himself. How's that for a piece of history? 

Find out more about how we deliver epic entertainment over at the Bally Casino blog or sign up to join the action.