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Pinball In Seattle Had Corrupt And Violent Beginnings

This story originally aired on September 27, 2017.

Pinball was considered gambling in the 1950s and 1960s. But Seattle's city leaders, police and King County Prosecutor Charles O. Carroll all turned a blind eye to the game as part of what was known as the "Tolerance Policy." 

"The city decided officially, the council and the mayor, to tolerate a certain level of illegal activity knowing it was illegal by state law," former King County Prosecutor Christopher Bayley explained. "But deciding if they licensed it, and controlled it, it would keep out the big, bad boys from back east who were known to be even worse than the local gamblers." 

Bayley wrote about the "Tolerance Policy" in his book, "Seattle Justice: The Rise and Fall of the Police Payoff System in Seattle." And he told 88.5's Ariel Van Cleave pinball was a surprisingly good target for corruption and violence because of the tens of millions of dollars in profits the games generated.

Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.