In War And In Peace
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, however, changed everything. In the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice that swept the country during World War II, Moloney ceased building gaming and amusement devices at his Belmont Avenue plant. He converted his operations to manufacturing a variety of wartime materials, from bombsights and oxygen regulators to detonator fuses and gunnery trainers. His plant operated 24 hours a day, without ceasing, earning a multitude of military citations for contributing to the war effort and hastening victory.
The return to peacetime in 1945 thrust Bally Manufacturing headlong back into building gaming and amusement devices. Innovations continued to pour out of the Belmont Avenue plant, including the “Hi Boy,” an upright console-style slot machine featuring a new electromechanical mechanism that would become the primary success behind Bally slot machines for the next 30 years. Bally also helped to popularize the use of "flippers" on pinball machines. First introduced by Gottlieb on its "Humpty Dumpty" pinball game in 1947, Bally quickly adopted this new skill-play feature on its pinball devices. Subsequent Bally improvements to the original Gottlieb flipper mechanism further enhanced the company`s growing dominance of the pinball industry.
Bally Manufacturing, under the imaginative and aggressive leadership of Moloney, was once again atop the amusement industry world. However, the roller coaster ride of success after success was about to abruptly change with the death of Ray T. Moloney on Feb. 26, 1958.
In the years following Moloney’s death, the company began a slow descent into uncertainty and fiscal insolvency. Moloney’s two sons, Ray, Jr. and Donald, valiantly fought to save their father’s company by looking for ways to fund new research and development. The company even sold its highly profitable coffee vending division to the Seeburg Company in 1961 to pay for mounting debts and estate taxes. The end came on June 17, 1963, when the assets of Lion Manufacturing Corporation, including its subsidiary Bally Manufacturing Company, were sold for $2.85 million after a failed attempt by Moloney’s sons to convince the company’s banking trustees to give them the money to build a new generation of electromechanical slot machines.
Was it the end of Bally Manufacturing, or just the beginning of a new era for this remarkably resilient company? Happily, a new chapter in the company’s history would be written by the heir apparent to the enterprising spirit of Moloney, one William T. (Bill) O’ Donnell. A close associate of Moloney, O’Donnell worked his way up to head Bally Manufacturing’s sales efforts. He orchestrated the purchase of Bally Manufacturing’s assets by himself and a group of investors. The result was a new Lion Manufacturing Corporation, with Bill O’Donnell as president. Bally was back, and a radically new slot machine product, called “Money Honey” would set the stage for the company’s future success.
November of 1963 marked the debut of “Money Honey.” Like Henry Ford’s Model T, this three-reel electromechanical slot machine broke new ground, forever changing the landscape of the gaming industry. The two innovations that the game brought to the casino industry were its reliable electronically controlled construction and the incorporation of a “bottomless” motor-driven payout hopper capable of automatic payouts of up to 500 coins without the use of an attendant. For the next 12 years, Money Honey in its many variations would become the flagship game of Bally Manufacturing’s slot machine division.
Like Moloney, Bill O’Donnell used a combination of personal charisma, business acumen and an iron will to forge a new Bally gaming and amusement empire. By 1968, a whopping 94 percent of all slot machines sold in Nevada, the preeminent gaming market in the world, were Bally machines.
That same year, 1968, saw Bally Manufacturing Corporation incorporated as a publicly traded company with Bill O’Donnell as president. The company’s financial strength in the 1960s and 1970s allowed O’Donnell to pursue an ambitious expansion program resulting in the acquisition of numerous companies, including Wulff-Apparatebau, Germany’s leading manufacturer of wall-mounted amusement devices, Midway Manufacturing, a manufacturer of coin-operated arcade amusement games and Nevada-based Bally Distributing, giving Bally a foothold as a licensee in the lucrative Nevada casino market.