Rescued from closure, Hungary's Pinball Museum boasts 130 machines

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Nearly tilted out of existence by the tax authorities, Hungary's Pinball Museum was relaunched this week after a court ruling saved it from permanently falling into the drain.

The basement museum has some 130 machines and owner Balasz Palfi said the collection is the largest of its kind in Europe. Visitors can play as many times as they want for the admission price of $8.80. TripAdvisor recommends it as one of the best Budapest attractions, currently ranked 18th out of more than 420 things to do in the Hungarian capital.

Palfi opened the museum in April 2014 with his personal collection.

"Our aim is to collect exciting and the most popular models from all eras," Palfi said. "The oldest model is from 1871 and the first modern pinball machine is from 1947."

Despite obtaining a government permit, the museum quickly got into trouble with the tax office, which objected to the initial pricing scheme and drew no distinction between the free-play exhibit and slot machines in bars that cost money and offer prizes.

The museum closed in May because Palfi did not want to risk the possibility of large fines but a July court ruling favoring the museum and a new ticket system alleviating the tax collectors' concerns allowed it to reopen.

The museum will host a pinball tournament in November, its 128 places filling up in 30 minutes. Players from a dozen countries will compete in the three-day event.

Machines include all-time favorite themes like Star Wars, the Simpsons, Indiana Jones and even a Bally table inspired by "Pinball Wizard," the hit song by The Who.

"This can offer people the possibility of going back in time, of returning to their childhood," Palfi said. "Others can also experience what machines we played on 20 or 30 years ago."

Marvin Fessler, a 20-year-old tourist from Switzerland, said he found out about the museum on the Internet and had played only computer pinball before.

"I only know pinball from Windows, that little game, and this is the first time for real play on a machine," Fessler said. "It's quite fun."

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