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Massachusetts town votes to keep arcades illegal

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Don't look for a Pac-Man machine in Marshfield, Mass. And forget finding a place to play Golden Tee as well.

Located 25 miles southeast of Boston, the small city of 4,297 is the only town in America where arcade games are illegal. And it likes it that way.

Twenty-nine years after citizens of the town voted to ban the placement of video game machines in public places, Marshfield voters were asked if it was time to get rid of the law. The vote, held during a town hall meeting, was 655-554 against making any changes.

Arcades, of course, are relatively hard to find anywhere these days, but that's more due to the popularity of home systems than because of legal restrictions. So what, exactly, does Marshfield have against 'em?

A few things, actually. Supporters of the ban argue that the machines are a nuisance in restaurants and other locations, and feel games are flat-out bad for kids, despite some evidence to the contrary.

Not everyone agrees. Lifelong resident George Mallett, who proposed lifting the ban, says the law makes no sense.

"A lot of people don't know it's illegal that we have video game prohibition," he told the local paper. "Why should I have to go to [neighboring town] Pembroke to play Pac Man?"

The vote marks the second time Marshfield has considered dropping the video game ban. In 1994, citizens also voted to keep it in place, fearing that games would "open the door to adult entertainment."

While the law might seem like a modern spin on Footloose (substituting a ban on games for a ban on dancing), to some, it's actually quite legal. After it was first passed, some business owners -- undoubtedly in the throes of Pac-Man Fever -- tried to have it overturned.

Those hopes were dashed when the state attorney general, Superior Court and Mass. Supreme Court all turned them away. In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court closed the matter for good, refusing to hear the appeal.


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