A brief history of slot machines

As the most popular casino game of all time, slot machines account for about 70% of the average American casino’s income. Over the years as technology has progressed, so has the slot machine.

They have certainly come a long way since the days of the “one-armed bandits”, and are now a mass of themes, flashing lights, alarm bells, bonuses and free spins. Instead of pulling a lever, players are now clicking the mouse on a screen, or touching places on their smartphone in order to to make the reels spin.

The first gambling machine was invented in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York. It contained 50 card faces and was based on poker.

The popularity of this machine was what led to what could be deemed as the first ever slot machine being created. The Liberty Bell was created by Charles Frey in the late 1800s and consisted of three reels with five symbols each.

Players had to pull a lever at the side to spin the reels and they needed to match three symbols to receive a pay-out. By 1908, these machines were in virtually every cigar store and saloon. It sparked what was to become a thriving industry.

The first electromechanical slot machine was produced by Bally in 1963. Money Honey involved pressing buttons instead of pulling a lever and led to the lever soon becoming obsolete.

It also had a bottomless hopper, which meant that it could pay out much larger amounts of coins than previous machines. This in turn led to electronic machines taking over and, by the late 1970s, the machines were using video screens.

The first machine to use a second screen bonus round was “Reel ’em in”, developed by WMS Industries Inc. in 1996.

Fast forward to 2015 and there is a sprawling universe of online slot machines. Now there are machines based on films, like Dracula, and classic tales, like Jack and the Beanstalk.

Not only did the developers realise the potential to make the games even better in a computerised format, they also teamed with other companies to apply more themes like these and attract new players.

There is also a lot more that can be done on these games now. Whereas on the original machines players just had to pull the lever and hope the reels landed favourably, nowadays players can choose how many win lines they want to play, change the stake, and take part in mini side games.

Some games also require some knowledge and skill to play. A lot of the time players have the opportunity to hold reels, or select certain things in the bonus games, so they need to know what they are doing to a certain extent.

Players can even now play these games on the move from their mobile phones or tablets. This progression in a relatively short space bodes well. What will players be spinning the reels on in the future?

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