Skee ball (also spelled skeeball, ski-ball or skee-ball; sometimes called skee roll) is a common game found in arcades and one of the first redemption games. It is similar to bowling except it is played on an inclined lane and the player aims to get the ball to fall into a hole rather than knock down pins. The object of the game is to collect as many points as possible by rolling balls up an incline and into the designated point value holes.
Skee Ball was invented in 1909 by J.D. Estes in the city of Philadelphia. In 1935 the rights to Skee-Ball were purchased by the Wurlitzer Corporation, which in 1945 sold them to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, an amusement park ride manufacturer. In 1977 the Philadelphia Toboggan Company set up Skee-Ball, Inc. to market the game, now located in Colmar, PA.
When Skee-Ball alleys were first sold in 1914 to the outdoor amusement park industry by Maurice Piesen (the stock was held by nine year old Maurice on behalf of his father, Hugo Piesen), the game had a 36-foot lane. This was much too big for most arcades, and made it so that only people who were quite strong could play it well. As a result it was later changed to 14 feet, but was eventually changed again to the modern length of 10 or 13 feet. Soon after these changes, skee ball became very common in arcades around the United States. Because prizes were given to the players, the game was considered a form of gambling in some parts of the country. This led to restrictions on the number of machines allowed in an arcade in some places, and banning of the game in other places. These laws, however, did not last long, and thus skee ball is now found in almost all arcades in the country. It is also a staple of the restaurant/arcade chain Chuck E. Cheese's.
In 1932, the first ever skee ball tournament was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Skee-Ball is now a competitive and social sport being played in bars in North America. In 2005, Brewskeeball.com created the first Skee-Ball based league in New York City. Since then Skee-Ball leagues have began to pop up under various banners including the United Skeeball Association based in Washington DC and SkeeNation based in the Carolinas. A fully themed Skee-Ball bar, Full Circle has also opened its doors as the Home of Brewskee-Ball and is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. These leagues are rapidly increasing in popularity and are expanding the reach of Skee-Ball to new players.