Slot machines are the most popular casino games ever made. Whether online or land-based, there are literally thousands to choose from. But where did they originate? On this page, I will provide an overview of how the first slot machines came about and how they have evolved and changed over the years.
The origins of slot machines can be traced back to the late 19th century. The first slot machine was developed by the New York company Sittman and Pitt in 1891. The game had 5 reels with 50 playing cards. The machine could be found in many bars and cost five cents to play. The players inserted their money and pulled the lever to play. Payouts were made for lining up poker combinations on the reels. To increase the advantage of the house, 2 cards were removed from the machine: the ten of spades and the jack of hearts. This cut the chances of hitting a royal flush by half. The machine did not have a direct payout mechanism, so the winnings were paid out at the bar. These were non-monetary prizes such as free drinks and cigars.
Charles August Fey is often credited as the inventor of the first slot machine. There is no exact date for the creation of his first car, although it is believed that this happened between 1887 and 1895. Fey created a machine that allowed automatic payouts. To do this, he reduced the difficulty of reading the payoff for the machine.
This was achieved by replacing the existing 5 reels with 3 reels. He also replaced playing cards with just 5 symbols: hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and a liberty bell. The highest payout was awarded for 3 bell symbols, which is why the machine was named the Liberty Bell. The car has gained immense popularity. Since Fei did not apply for a patent for his design, it was copied by many other slot machine manufacturers.
Despite the fact that slot machines were officially banned in 1902, the Liberty Bell continued to be produced. Since cash prizes could no longer be distributed, the era of fruit machines began. These machines featured fruit symbols, and prizes were paid out with chewing gum and matching flavored candies. In 1907, Chicago manufacturer Herbert Mills released a slot machine called the Operator Bell. By 1908, the machine could be found in most tobacconists, bowling alleys, convenience stores, and saloons. The BAR symbol we know today was introduced to slot machines at that time and was based on the logo of the Bell-Fruit company.
For many years slot machines remained purely mechanical. To start the game, you had to lower the lever that set the reels in motion. By pulling this lever, you would stretch a spring inside the machine, which would gradually stop the rotation of the reels. This manual approach to playing slots gave players the feeling that they were in control of the game and the outcome. This is one of the reasons why these machines were so popular. It was because of the lever that the slang expression “one-armed bandits” arose.
In 1964, Bally released the first fully electromechanical slot called Money Honey. The reels operated entirely electrically, but the game was still started by pulling a lever. It would have been too unusual for players of that time to play the game without pulling the lever. It was the first slot machine to feature a bottomless tray that allowed automatic payouts of up to 500 coins. The game was hugely popular and led to the growing dominance of electromechanical slots. Soon the familiar lever was removed from the new slots.
1976 was the year of the development of the first real video slot. The slot was manufactured in Kearny Mesa, California by Fortune Coin of Las Vegas. The game used a modified 19″ Sony TV for display. The game was first available at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter, after some checks and modifications, the video slot was approved by the Nevada State Gambling Commission. Soon after, he became extremely popular on the Las Vegas Strip. In 1978, Fortune Coin was acquired by IGT.
The next milestone in slot machine history came in 1996 when WMS Industries Inc released “Reel ‘Em”. It was the first video slot with a bonus round on the second screen. When the bonus round was triggered, a completely different screen was displayed where the bonus game took place. Additional payouts can be won during this bonus round. During this time, slots were becoming more and more popular in casinos. In fact, they brought about 70% of the casino’s income, and also occupied 70% of the available space.
The rise of online slots
The boom of the Internet in the mid-90s led to the emergence of the first online casinos. In the beginning, only classic casino games such as roulette and blackjack were available, but slots were soon added. As with land-based casinos, slots quickly became more popular than traditional casino games and as such, they soon made up the bulk of the online casino game selection.