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The History of Slot Machines

Slot machines are one of the most recognizable games found in casinos. Known by various names, such as a fruit machines, poker machines, or simply as slots, these games have long since evolved from the very first slot machines, also known as one-armed bandits. Precursors To Slot Machines In 1891, the first gambling machine was developed and built by Sittman and Pitt in Brooklyn, New York. It was initially conceived as a machine that could cash in on the popularity of poker. To play, a nickel would be inserted into the machine, which allowed the lever to be pulled, which in turn spun the five drums. Players would then hope for a good poker hand, which would allow them to win various prizes, as determined by the "house", or bar that the machine was located. This was partly because this early gambling machine did not have an automated payout mechanism, requiring someone to visually confirm the results of the pull, and to award the prize. There were other similar machines used in saloons, confectionery, and general stores called trade simulators. Placed on a counter top in the establishment, they were meant to encourage customers to play for a prize. These trade simulators also typically had five drums or reels, and most of symbols were fruit, representing the fruit-flavored chewing gums that were offered as prizes. Like the Sittman and Pitt gambling machine, however, these trade simulators did not have an automated or direct payout mechanism. The First Slot Machine The first true slot machine was invented in San Francisco by Charles Fey, in the year 1895. Like the gambling machine that preceded it, a player would insert a nickel and pull a lever to make the slot machine's reels spin. Unlike its predecessor, it offered a much simpler game, making use of only three reels with five symbols, allowing fewer winning combinations. This allowed Fey to create an automatic mechanism that could detect these combinations, and instantly offer rewards for them, without the need for human supervision. Known as the Liberty Bell machine, as it made use of a Liberty Bell as one of its symbols, it was a huge success. Fey could not keep up with the orders for his machine, with various establishments like saloons, barber shops, and even brothels looking to have their very own Liberty Bell slot machine. Soon, other companies offered their own variations of slot machines, featuring more combinations and higher payouts. New Laws and Prohibition Despite the popularity of the game, and perhaps because of it, new laws were introduced in 1909 which prohibited slot machines from dispensing cash. Previously, more relaxed laws allowed the development and widespread use of slot machines. But now, owners and manufacturers had to make adjustments to their games and machines. Some began to offer gum and other prizes for winning combinations, allowing the machines to still be used legally. With the prohibition declared in 1919, slot machines found renewed popularity in the speakeasies that sprung up in response to the prohibition. As speakeasies offered alcohol and were illegal anyway, slot machines were also found inside them that offered cash prizes to players. However, when gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, slot machine manufacturers found a new market for their machines and games - namely the new casinos. This allowed slot machines to be enjoyed legally for the first time in decades, and also allowed manufacturers to continue building and designing newer and better machines as well, further increasing the popularity of slot machines, and making them one of the most recognizable games in casinos. Further Advancements and Innovations Manufacturers and designers of slot machines continued to strive for better and more innovative designs, as well as better slot games. 1963 saw the development and manufacture of the first electromechanical slot machine, the Money Honey. Being powered by electricity, it had new sound effects, and was the first slot machine to have a coin hopper. The Money Honey offered even higher payouts than previous machines, able to dispense up to five hundred coins automatically. This started a trend not only for more complex machines and higher payouts, but also for the use of electric slot machines and games. Soon, the side lever that earned slot machines the nickname of one-armed bandit, was no longer required. In 1976, the first video slot machine was developed, making use of logic boards for slot machine functions, and a 19-inch Sony Trinitron for its color display. The Las Vegas Hilton hotel was the first to have these slot machines, though at first there were some reservations about whether the machine was fair. The Nevada State Gaming Commission eventually approved the design, and the use of logic boards, after some modifications designed to ensure that the game was fair. Video slot machines proved to be very popular, and became the new trend for slot machines. It also allowed more innovative and creative games to be played on slot machines. As microprocessor technology advanced, slot machines became even more complex and even more popular. In 1996 the first video slot machine with a bonus round was designed, which allowed players to participate in a bonus game to win them even more prizes. Soon, the bonus round became standard in video slot machines. Online Play and More With the advent of online casinos, video slot machines could now be played online, allowing players to play slots anywhere, and at any time of the day. While players await the next innovation in slot machine games, slot machines remain one of the most popular casino games. With the ease and convenience of today's slot machine games, it is more than likely that slot machines will continue to be one of the most played games in both real casinos, as well as virtual casinos.

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