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The Amazing History of Slot Machines


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Slot machines are the most common and popular casino games. Whether land-based or online, there are thousands of slot machine games to choose from. But what’s the history of these fascinating games?

Well, coin-based slot machine games were first debuted in the 1800s. The first official slot machine was created by a Bavarian mechanic known as Charles Fey.

This guide will take you through an overview of how the first slot machine came into existence and how these casino games have evolved over the years.

The First Card Slot Machines

This model is the father and precursor of modern slot machines. The card-operated slot machine was created by Pitt and Sittman in 1891. The machine was based on the poker card game and featured five drums housing a total of 50 card faces.

To play the games, players had to insert a nickel followed by a lever pull to spin the drums. Unfortunately, the machine did not have an automated payment mechanism, and therefore, prizes were determined by the gambling establishment.

Winning hands such as a pair of Kings would get, let’s say a free beer, while bigger wins such as a royal flush would earn the player a highball or cigar. Two cards were removed from the 52-card deck to improve the house edge, leaving just 50 faces.

The Jack of Hearts and Ten of Spades were excluded. This doubled the odds against landing a royal flush. The drums were regularly rearranged to reduce the player’s winning odds. The mechanical payout of the Card Machine was highly difficult due to the permutation of results.

For the machine to have a mechanical payout, it required to have fewer spinning drums. Today’s slot machines such as those features on this page are far much more advanced than the card-operated model.

The Liberty Bell

This machine was developed in the late 1800s in San Francisco. At this time, the city of San Francisco was typically a gold rush with lots of bordellos, honky-tonks, saloons, cigar shops, and gambling establishments. The Sittman and Pitt’s Card Machine has popular among gamblers in the city.

Charles Fey, a renowned Bavarian mechanic at the time, saw the potential of gambling machines. So Fey began creating his own gambling machines in the basement of his Berkeley apartment. He began with The Horseshoe, followed by the 4-11-44. The second machine was quite a success.

In 1898, Fey built the Card Bell, a machine that would later revolutionize the face of slot machines. The Card Bell featured three reels, an automated payout design, and a staggered stop. This slot machine design dominated the gambling industry until the advent of electronic machines, and it’s still in use in some places to date. Thus, Charles Fey is regarded as the inventor of slot machines.

At first, the Card Bell slot machine featured playing card symbols on its three reels. However, one year after its launch, Fey redesign his machine, replacing the card symbols with bells and starts and renaming it the Liberty Bell. If a player landed three bells, he would walk away with the largest payoff of ten nickels.

The Mass Adoption of the Liberty Bell

Many variations of the same model followed the Liberty Bell. The interesting part is that some of the machines gave out fruit-flavored chewing gums for payouts. With this model, pictures of the different flavors were used as reel symbols.

Today, we still have slot machines with popular melon and cherry reel symbols – a concept borrowed from these early machines. The BAR symbol commonly used in today’s slot machines is surprisingly the logo of the pioneer Bell-Fruit Gum Company.

Because of the use of fruit symbols in these early machines, slot machines in the UK are often regarded as “fruit machines.” In Australia, they are termed “poker machines.” Americans and Canadians call them “slots,” and Scotlanders know them as “puggy.” The “One-Armed Bandit” is the oldest slang terms for slot machines.

Before the advent of electronic slot machines, players used to spin the reels by pulling a lever positioned at the side of the slot machine. These machines minted tons of coins for the gambling establishments by “robbing” unlucky players. Today’s slot machines still feature a legacy lever positioned at the side.

Electronic Slots

The first completely electronic slot machine was invented in 1963. The genius behind the Money Honey was a developer known as Bally. This slot machine featured an automated payout of up to five hundred coins and a bottomless hopper. In addition, the machine did not require an attendant.

Video Slots

Video slots came into existence in 1976. The first video slot machine, the Fortune Coin, was designed by Walt Fraley. The machine featured a 19-inch Sony Trinitron color display and logic boards for other machine functions.

The very first prototype was mounted on a full-size slot machine cabinet. After that, the first mass-produced commercial video slot machines were tried and tested in Las Vegas. It did not take long after that before another technological advancement was made to link multiple video slot machines from different casinos.

The first progressive jackpot slot machine was the Megabucks – Invented back in 1986 by the developer IGT. Today, accessing a slot machine is as easy as inserting cash or a barcoded paper ticket into the machine. It’s then activated using a button or a lever – newer models will only require you to touch a button on a screen.

Some video slots might or might not require the player to be skilled. However, the difference between professional and novice players narrows down to skills. There are secrets to winning at video lots.

Online Slots

Online slots came with the advent of the internet in the 1990s. That coupled with subsequent computer technologies, has brought a revolution in the world of slots gaming. Online casinos offering online slots are dedicated to bringing the slot machine experience to gamblers around the world – and at the comfort of their homes.

With mobile slots, you can access your favorite slot games from any mobile device, Android, iOS, Windows, or otherwise. These games are such a great innovation offering a highly immersive and diversified gambling experience in terms of themes and designs.

Online casino game software developers are continuously pushing boundaries in their quest for more thrilling and exciting slot titles.

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