Tales from the Morgue: Tax tokens

The photo shows (left to right) a quarter, a 5-mill token, a dime and a 1-mill token. One might guess consumers had to pay attention to the coins in their pockets.

Arizona Daily Star

It only took a few days for gamblers to find a way to use the new sales tax tokens to their advantage.

Sure it was illegal, but so were slot machines, so the fact that slot machines could be fooled by tax tokens probably didn't seem like a big deal.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Sunday, Sept. 5, 1937:

Slot Machines Accept 1-Mill Tokens in Lieu of Real Dimes

Whispers and laughter mingles yesterday to cloud the countenances of Arizona slot machine operators as John Public passed the word, "Now it can be done."

There is a way to beat the "one arm bandits!"

The new one mill sales tax tokens trip the 10-cent machines with nary a jamming jerk of the handle. Assuming one hits the lowest pay-off three for one, there is a profit of 29.9 cents.

"No, the five-mill tokens won't work. They are too large for the nickel machines and they jam the quarter machines."

How did John Public know they wouldn't work? Oh, he jammed a couple of quarter machines trying and he couldn't get one in the slot on the nickel machines.

Of course the new system of beating the bandits is only 33 1-3 per cent sure, since only the one-mill tokens will work. But the odds are better than ever before.

What could the law do with you for playing the tokens on the machines?

No one knew for certain, but the consensus was that it could do nothing, the machines being ostensibly unlawful in this state. It was pointed out that the tax commission had already threatened to stamp them out by cancelling liquor licenses.

Slot machine operators were reported to have called the tax commission office in Phoenix inquiring whether the commission had manufactured the token with slot machines in mind.

No, it was all dine without malice aforethought. It is just "one of those things."

But yesterday John Public predicted the 10-cent variety of slot machines would soon be as extinct as the long-gone Dodo.

How enterprising to attempt to make money off of a bureaucracy.

Johanna Eubank is an online content producer for the Arizona Daily Star and tucson.com. Contact her at jeubank@tucson.com

About Tales from the Morgue: The "morgue," is what those in the newspaper business call the archives. Before digital archives, the morgue was a room full of clippings and other files of old newspapers.