Inside Look: The Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame

Pinball Hall of Fame Founder and Owner Tim Arnold. Photo/Illustration Credit: Vegas News

If you’re looking to pump money in some games other than slot machines, then the Pinball Hall of Fame offers a different kind of Las Vegas experience.

Located at the south end of the Strip near the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, the PHoF features the largest collection of pinball machines and is home to over 400 pinball machines and arcade video games.

“Everybodys got this complaint ‘everywhere I go everything is the same,’” PHoF owner and founder Tim Arnold explained to Vegas News. “What you’ve got here is something totally unique that exists nowhere else in the world.”

The pinball wizard originally got into the business during the 1970s when he opened an arcade with his brother in Lansing and Ann Arbor, Michigan called Pinball Pete’s. 

Arnold eventually sold his share in the business and moved to Las Vegas in 1990. With him, he brought his love for Pinball Machines — about 1000 machines that took about two years to transport from Michigan to Las Vegas.

Arnold eventually created the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club with other like-minded pinball wizards and began hosting “Fun Nights” in the early 90s in which club members would raise money for local charities  — namely the Salvation Army.

The Fun Nights became so popular that Arnold was able to raise enough funds to unveil his collection to the public at the PHoF’s first location off 3330 Tropicana Ave in 2006 and eventually would expand into its former 10,000 square foot location further down Tropicana near Maryland Parkway.

Arnold moved into the PHoF’s current 25,000 square foot location earlier in April, but things almost fell through when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp drop in revenue; causing an extensive amount of debt and moving costs to pile up.

Luckily, a GoFundMe campaign and anonymous $80,000 donation helped the PHoF move into its upgraded location, which allowed Arnold to double the number of playable machines.

“We’ve never run a room this big,” Arnold said. “We’ve never had traffic like the traffic we have now.”

The pinball machines span various decades from the 1930s to the 21st century. A vast majority of the machines are themed after a variety of Hollywood movies and other pop culture icons, including  Kiss, Shrek, and Star Wars.

Some machines are one-of-a-kind, including a PHoF’s oldest machine: a 1933 Rockola Jigsaw pinball machine that was used to celebrate the Chicago World Fair of the same year.

Besides pinball machines, the PHoF also features a variety of other vintage arcade machines including Ms. PacmanThe Simpsons by Konami, and Super Mario Brothers.

As it has always been, the PHoF operates as a nonprofit organization and doesn’t charge for admission or parking.

Unlike modern arcades, there are no card readers on any of the machines. Instead, guests pay the old-fashioned way: With quarters.

Most games only cost 25-50 cents per game, making for a cost-friendly experience compared to a majority of other attractions on the Strip (If you forget to bring quarters, there are quarter machines available onsite).

While foot traffic has been better, there are still some challenges that come with running the PHoF, including constant repairs that need to be made to the facility’s older machines. 

“There’s a limited amount of people that still know how to fix this stuff,” Arnold told Vegas News.

While fundraising efforts helped the PHoF move into its new location, there’s also some debt that needs to be paid off.

Despite these challenges, Arnold and his staff plan on carrying forward with creating a unique pinball experience for as long as they can. 

“Our job will be over the day we can walk up to every game in this place and not find a single problem with it…and that day’s never going to arrive,” Arnold said. “So let’s just hunker down, get out our screwdrivers and make the finest pinball (experience) we can.”

Check out our inside at the Pinball Hall of Fame with Tim Arnold Here:

The Pinball Hall of Fame is located on 4925 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas NV 89119 and is open daily from 11 AM – 9 PM

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