History of Slot Machines

Slot machines currently stand as the most played games in the gambling scene. The niche has grown to include the gameplay of free slot games for fun, which do not need real money to be activated. With the massive popularity they face today, many gamblers can’t help but wonder the origin of this popular type of games. In this piece, we follow the evolutionary steps of these popular games that have grown to be available in the thousands today. 

The Origin

The earliest mention of slot machines or something similar to what is played today can be traced back to the nineteenth century in around 1891. The first-ever device of this kind was developed by Sittman and Pitt, which was a firm that ran in New York. The machine was created with five rotating drums that featured fifty poker cards instead of the usual fifty-two. The removal of the jack of hearts and ten of spades was intended to increase the house edge. The machine became a popular feature in bars, and stakes were placed using a nickel. Punters collected payouts for creating combinations similar to those of poker hands. Since the devices were not built with payout systems, wins were collected at the bar in the form of drinks, food, or cigars. 

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell is often referred to as the first-ever slot machine with regards to what is found in casinos today, considering that of Sittman and Pitt resembled video poker more than it did pokies. This machine was the invention of Charles Frey, who is regarded as the father of slots. The period of the device’s creation is not clear and is placed somewhere between 1887 and 1895.

One of the biggest changes that was witnessed with The Liberty Bell was its use of three reels instead of five. The fifty playing cards were also replaced with:

  • Hearts
  • Spades
  • Clubs
  • Diamonds
  • Horseshoes
  • Liberty bells

The bell was the jackpot symbol, and it paid the highest prize when three of them were displayed. 

The Real Money Ban

In 1902, a bill was passed that banned slot machines. Even though the devices were still in production after that, they eliminated the provision of real money wins. Instead, payouts were given in the form of candy and chewing gum. The icons on the reels were also replaced with those of fruits, and the winnings provided were matched to the flavour that was displayed on the screen. The BAR symbol found in slot games today became popular during this period since it was the logo of the firm that developed these machines. 

Electromechanical Age

Up until 1964, slot games operated mechanically using a spring that spun the reels. Bally Technologies came in with an entirely electrical machine, that replaced the spring with automated functions. However, the lever was retained since it would be too unfamiliar for gamblers to play without it. The payouts were in machines also shot up to as much as five hundred coins. 

Entry of Video Slots

1976 was when the casino industry saw the first-ever video slot courtesy of Fortune Coin, which has since been acquired by IGT. The slot machine served as an attraction in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel where it was displayed. 

Bonus Games

Williams Interactive was behind the next big innovation in slots, which was a second screen bonus featured in the Reel ‘Em Slot. This inclusion made slots so popular that they rose to account for 70% of land-based casinos’ revenue. 

Wrap Up

Today, the gambling platform is dominated by online slots, which are accessible to players on desktop and mobile devices. These sets are continuously evolving as well to meet and surpass the needs of players. 


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