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September 15: Slot Machine Legislation (Part 2)

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Earlier this week, we reported on slot machine legislation from 1950. On this date that year, an article in The People’s Voice, a newspaper from Helena, Montana, asked readers to vote against legalizing the machines. While they were already legal in that state, as well as six others, the new anti-slot machine bill in Congress would require states to vote again on slot machine legality. The legislation also made it a federal crime to transport the machines into states that did not consider them legal.

Republican Senator George Malone from Nevada, where all forms of gambling were considered legal, stood up and partook in “a one-man filibuster” against the bill. The Fargo Forum reported that Malone talked for 11 hours. He used the time to talk about foreign policy, the war in Korea, tariffs, and socialism in addition to his objections to the slot machine bill.

His main complaints included the requirement that states had to reaffirm the legality of the machines, arguing that the requirement infringed on the rights of the states. He also objected to the provision about shipping machines to other states, arguing that it would be problematic if manufacturing or repair services were done in states where using the machines was illegal.

To quote the Fargo Forum: “Most of the time his audience of senators was small. One page boy fell asleep. There was no public gallery. The senate’s temporary quarters in the old supreme court chamber don’t permit outsiders.” Unquote.

After he had been standing and talking for ten hours, Malone got hungry. He sent out for “a toasted sandwich, cut into bite-sized pieces.” This didn’t sit well with Democratic Floor Leader Lucas from Illinois, who had already clashed with Malone. Lucas complained to the presiding officer of the Senate, “I don’t think we have yet come to the point where the senate is a restaurant.”

North Dakota Senator William Langer intervened. “Wild Bill,” as he was known, was considered “one of the 20th century’s most colorful United States senators.”

The Forum report said: “Malone never tasted the sandwich. Senator Langer munched pieces of it and shoved the plate invitingly toward Lucas.”

In addition to missing his lunch, Malone also didn’t get his way on the legislation. Despite his filibuster, the anti-slot machine bill passed.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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