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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Slot Machines and Chewing Gum

September 28, 1911

Four Slot Machines Confiscated by the Sheriff and State’s Attorney

Last week Earl R Decker, who owns a number of slot machines made by the Silver King Novelty Co. of Indianapolis, was in Lawrenceville interviewing a number of people in regard to placing gum vending machines in their places of business. Mr. Decker called upon Mayor Busse and was referred to City Attorney Martin, to whom he explained the nature of the machines, claiming they were in no way gambling devices but simply machines designed to stimulate the sale of chewing gum. Mr. Martin gave as his opinion, that if the representations of Mr. Decker were true, the machines were not gambling devices and he would be justified in placing them with our merchants.

Accordingly, four machines were placed as follows: One at Cassell’s, one in the Big 4 Pool Room, one in Plumer’s Barber Shop and one in the Fancher Drug Store.

The manner of operating the machines was very simple. A nickel was placed in the slot, a spring was pushed over and the handle pulled. After this operation a package of gum was delivered at the bottom of the machine and a music box in the rear plays a tune. If the purchaser of the gum was lucky, a number of checks will also fall into a little basin provided for that purpose. These checks were the size of a nickel and had a round hole in the center. Around the edge was specified that this check was good for one tune when placed in the machine.

The machines certainly stimulated the gum trade and the number of confirmed gum users in the city was surprising. Monday morning State’s Attorney Sumner in company with Sheriff Cochran visited the four above mentioned places and confiscated the machines. Mr. Decker returned the same day and was placed under arrest, charged with owning and keeping gambling devices. He was taken before Judge Benson and placed under $600 bond for his appearance at the November term of county court.

Upon his claiming ownership of the machines, Decker was permitted to take the money from the machines, but the machines are yet in possession of the sheriff. Cassell’s machine yielded $21.85, Fancher’s $14.25, the Pool Room’s $5.75 and Plummer’s was empty. In addition, several hundred checks were found.

The case was to come before the next term of court and if the state were victorious, prosecutions under the city ordinances were likely to follow.

Ed Note: want a piece of gum to chew, you put your nickel in the machine, and next thing you know you are signing up for Gambler's Anonymous.

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