‘Ballyhoo’ poker machine

Made in Australia, Oceania, 1976-1977.

This poker machine was created by two of the most controversial names in the history of Australian gambling, the Bally poker machine company and its Australian representative, Jack Rooklyn.

Corruption of police and politicians is a frequent consequence of laws that are widely and enthusiastically disobeyed. In Australia and the USA, most forms of gambling were illegal for most of the twentieth century. Yet the gambling industry flourished through the activities of gambling entrepreneurs and th...


A three-reel electromechanical poker machine for 10 cent coins. The machine has a chromed steel fascia and wood-grain laminate case. A steel handle is at right with black sphere grip.

Three screen printed acrylic panels are inset on fascia, featuring nautical symbols - signal flags, helm, bells etc. The lower panel depicts the racing sloop Ballyhoo with spinaker. The makers plate is at lower right of case. The serial number is 884-76. Case keys and power cord are extant.


1110 mm
500 mm
480 mm


The poker machine was manufactured by the Bally Manufacturing Company, Chicago, USA. It was modified in Australia by the addition of fascia panels featuring Jack Rooklyn's racing sloop Ballyhoo.

The Bally Manufacturing Company of Chicago was founded in 1932. Its first products were pinball and other arcade amusements. Bally's first successful product was the 'Ballyhoo' pinball machine.

In 1936 Bally entered the booming poker machine industry. The 1931 legalisation of gaming in Nevada created a new market for these formerly illegal machines in the casinos and hotels of Las Vegas and Reno.

During the 1960s, Bally became the major manufacturer of poker machines, supplanting the established firms of Mills and Jennings. This success was cemented by Bally's innovation of the electromechanical machine in 1963. This 'Money Honey' machine was the first to feature a power-driven payout hopper, capable of automatic payouts of up to 500 coins. The payout rattle became an element of poker machines' appeal.

As well as dominating the US poker machine market, Bally became a major exporter. During the 1950s Jack Rooklyn became Bally's agent in Australia and Asia. This relationship continued until the 1970s, when Bally Australia was alleged to have used intimidation and bribery to convince registered clubs in NSW to buy Bally poker machines. These allegations were investigated by a Royal Commission chaired by Justice Athol Moffitt, who recommended that Bally Australia be barred from trading. This recommendation was not adopted by Australian governments. However the Bally company severed its relationship with Jack Rooklyn in 1977.

At this time, Bally Manufacturing Company was widely described in Australian media and political circles as a company associated with or controlled by Mafia interests. There is no doubt that Bally USA dealt with prominent criminals; it may also have been managed by people with Mafia connections, as was claimed by Jimmy Fratianno, Mafia boss turned FBI informer.

However this was unremarkable in the US gambling industry, which was largely the creation of Mafia dons such as Meyer Lansky and Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel, major investors in Las Vegas' casinos and hotels. Indeed, Bally can claim to have pioneered the industry's recent move towards relative respectability, becoming a publically listed company in 1968 and in 1975 the first gaming company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. During the 1980s Bally purchased several casinos and hotels.


Gift of Karen van Kretschmar, 2004
9 February, 2005

Cite this Object

'Ballyhoo' poker machine 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 November 2017, <https://ma.as/348738>
{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/348738 |title='Ballyhoo' poker machine |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=20 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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