Marshfield Lifts Footloose-Like Ban on Coin-Op Video Games

Ms. Pac-Man.
Ms. Pac-Man.
The Boston Globe

Pac-Man’s long local nightmare is over.

Marshfield Town Meeting has lifted the community’s 32-year ban on coin-operated video games, according to the Patriot-Ledger. The town instituted the ban in 1982 to the consternation of local businesses, which sued to try and keep the cabinet-bound video games.

From the Patriot-Ledger:

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Believing that coin-operated video games robbed children's piggy banks and brought an undesirable element to town, residents passed the ban in 1982. The prohibition split residents and threw Marshfield into the national spotlight as the law made its way through the state's legal system.

The debate ended in 1983, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the business owners who were forced to pull the plug on Pac-Man.

Back in 1983, when the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, the Christian Science Monitor spoke with Marshfield ban proponents. They cited concerns about truancy, gambling, and drug addiction all associated with video arcades.

From the Monitor:

''If we have these things in the town, it draws the wrong type of people and we want to protect our town,'' says Betsy Judge, who admits that she's never actually seen problems, such as loitering, in her town or any other she's visited. She adds that her beliefs stem from the idea that ''hanging out'' is not a constructive activity for youths.

The games are said to be addictive to youth, who will skip school and spend unreasonable sums of money to play them at a quarter -- and sometimes 50 cents -- a pop, says Thomas R. Jackson, a retired narcotics agent and the resident who proposed the ban. Further, he says, gambling and drug activity are connected to the video game locations where youth congregate unsupervised.

After 32 years, the town is apparently safe from the “undesirable” element that flips quarters and plays Donkey Kong. Still, the Patriot-Ledger found town meeting members opposed to lifting the ban, citing a lack of business interest and the distraction the games present to families that go out for dinner.