Taking a gamble on a new museum in Pottsville

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POTTSVILLE, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Small games of chance, like bingo gambling machines, used to be outlawed in our state.

That’s not really the case anymore as Mohegan Sun Casino Pocono celebrates 15 years this month. However, one area man has made it his life’s mission to collect and preserve some of the pieces of NEPA’s dark gambling past.

81-year-old Butch Glauda is called “Bingo Butch” for a reason. His collection of bingo pinball machines has attracted enthusiasts from around the world. Now, he wants to share them with the public by opening a museum in Pottsville.

Glauda was just a kid when he put his first coin into a bingo pinball machine. Glauda and his group of friends would play them all over Pottsville.

“We would call it juking,” Glauda said. “Most of us had a paper route and all the money we made with the paper route, we put in these here. I just loved playing them.”

He says his uncle gave him his first machine. He used the money he made from it to buy another and then another.

“And then you could say it just snowballed. This was just like a side job, really I did it to collect everyone,” Glauda said.

Glauda says he operated them on the side until they were banned. In 1959, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court outlawed multi-coin pinball machines as gambling devices because a player can increase their odds by adding additional coins.

Establishments could face gambling charges if they were found operating the machines on the premises. Many were raided, and the machines confiscated and destroyed.

Glauda said he didn’t need to operate them, he just liked collecting them. He and his sons would travel thousands of miles to find the machines. Glauda now has around 300 bingo pinball machines. Some are one of a kind, including the first bingo pinball bally ever made in March 1951.

Glauda is working with the city of Pottsville to open a museum. Glauda says it would be the first and only bingo pinball museum in the country.

The vintage machines are now set to “free play” so you don’t need to feed them any coins or break any laws to play.

“We just want people that like these so much like I do, we just want them to be able to come somewhere and see them and play them too. They can play them,” Glauda said.

Pottsville city officials say they’re on board with Glauda’s plan to open the museum at 530 South Centre Street.

Glauda says he’s working with an attorney to get approval from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

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