Slot machines are by far the most popular gambling games in modern casinos. Ever since their inception in the 19th century, slot machines have been attracting a lot of attention. Unlike some other gambling games, slot machines are easy to learn and simple to play. There are no complicated strategies involved and you don’t need a degree in advanced math to be successful. You can just plop down in front of one and have some fun, without worrying about some complicated tactics. Today, we are going to examine how these amazing machines came to be.
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The First Steps
The origin of the slot machines can be traced to 1891 and Sittman and Pitt Company from New York. Their engineers constructed a poker machine with five reels, each with 10 card symbols. Since they couldn’t fit two more for the full deck, they cleverly omitted the ten of spades and the jack of hearts, reducing the chances of players getting the Royal Flush by 50%. The machine was played by regular poker rules but had no direct payment mechanism. Instead, players could claim their prizes at the bar, usually in the form of free drinks or meals. More upscale establishments would throw cigars in the mix as well.
The First Slot Machine
The man celebrated as the creator of the first slot machine was named Charles Augustus Fey from San Francisco. We don’t know the exact date or even a year when Fey created his mechanical marvel that kickstarted the history of slot machines, only that it happened somewhere between 1887 and 1895. Fey considered poker machines too complicated, so he designed his machine to use only three reels with five symbols each, hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes, and a liberty bell. This drastically reduced the number of possible combinations, as well as gave the machine its nickname. For a long time, all slot machines of this type would be called Liberty Bell. Fey also managed to include an automatic payment mechanism, so the machine was self-sufficient, which was one of the reasons for its massive popularity. Soon, every bar in San Francisco had one or more of them.
The First Ban
The popularity of Fey’s Liberty Bell machines (and several other copycat designs) led to the first ban of slot machines in 1902. Gambling was considered a huge vice and under pressure from religious groups, the City of San Francisco issued a city-wide ban on Liberty Bells. Many cities and states followed suit. Slot machine manufacturers, like Herbert Mills from Chicago, soon found a workaround. Instead of paying out cash, they designed their machines to dish out chewing gums with various flavors. To match the rewards, symbols on the reels also changed, featuring corresponding fruits, like cherry, lemon, bananas, plums, and others. This is how we got fruit symbols on slot machines we still use today. By 1908, the fruit machines could be found in most tobacconists, bowling alleys, shops, and salons across the country. The moral guardians were furious, but there wasn’t much they could do about it.
The First Electromechanical Slot
The Second World War brought some amazing advances in the field of electronics and many of them soon found their way into the civilian sector. In 1964, the first electromechanical slot was designed by Bally, called Money Honey. Players started the machine with a push of a button, eliminating the ubiquitous lever from the earlier mechanical models. The lever was used to wind up a spring which would, in turn, start the reels turning. It also gave the slot machines one of their many nicknames, the One-Armed Robber. Although some models use it even today, it is more for sentimental reasons and not a practical necessity.
Another revolutionary feature of Money Honey was the bottomless hopper. It allowed it to make automatic payments of up to 500 coins. The machine proved widely popular and soon, electromechanical slots dominated the casino floors everywhere.
The First Video Slot
The next chapter in the history of slot machines began in the 1970s. Video games were making a triumphant entry to the market and a company from Las Vegas called Fortune Coin had an idea to combine them with slot machines. They used a modified 19-inch Sony TV and slapped it on a new machine and the first video slot was born. The last remnants of Fey’s original slot machine were gone. There would be no more reels, as the machine used images projected on a display to determine the winning combination. The first one was unveiled at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. After a few modifications, mainly aimed at preventing people from cheating, it was approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission, and the era of video slots began in earnest.
The First Online Slot
The 1980s and early 1990s saw several advancements that laid the foundation for what has now become one of the most popular online gaming activities, the online slots. Increasing digitalization and the rise of the Internet paved the way for the first online casinos in the second half of the 1990s. The slots were one of the first games that were adapted for online use. At first, online slots strongly resemble their traditional brethren, but developers’ imaginations soon took over and created some amazing online slot versions. The Internet also allowed networking, so we now have a chance to enjoy various Mega Pays slots that connect hundreds of machines into one giant jackpot scheme, often paying out millions in prizes.