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History of Slot Machines (2020)🥇 Slot Machine History 🥇 - AskGamblers

History of Slot Machines: Who Invented Slots and When?

A gambling buff with a keen interest in how the first slot machines came into existence? Great, you're in the right place to learn everything and anything there is to learn about slots history development, all from the bellowed fathers of slots Sittman and Pitt to the modern-day electromechanical slots. 

Getting your facts right regarding the history of slot machines development will add an extra flavour to your daily gambling roller-coaster and be a fantastic conversation starter when you're amongst other gambling enthusiasts.

So, check out the timeline of the history of slots first, then switch to the infographic below depicting slots development progress through history - 

The Long History of Slots: Predecessors

Slot machine history may not have a history as long as the gambling itself, but it sure goes back to the times when online gambling wasn’t even an idea, let alone anyone’s reality. 

Just two centuries after gambling as a craft and primary entertainment streak was recognised across Europe, came the first slot-like machines to spice up the overall gameplay. It was in 1891, in New York City that the first slot machine was developed by a then-local company Sittman and Pitt. That particular slot machine had 5 drums with a total of 50 playing cards. 

Whoever wanted to play the machine at the time could find it in numerous bars across the city; it cost a nickel to play. Similarly to other slot machines in the days to come, the players were to put the money in the machine, apply their favourite slot strategies and tactics and pull the lever to play. 

When a player would line up poker hands on the reels, the payout was due. With the idea of increasing the house edge and reducing the odds of getting a royal flush by half, the jack of hearts and ten of spades were removed from the machine. 

Unlike modern-day slot machines, these didn’t have a direct payout mechanism. Instead, all wins were non-monetary prizes, paid at the bar. Winners could get cigars, free drinks and other complementary rewards issued by the bar. Oh, how times have changed! 

Sittman and Pitt Slot Machines

Let there be no confusion – while Sittman and Pitt slot machines do remain referred to as the first slot machines ever made, their concept and mechanism were different to what will, in later years, be known as the "first slot machine".

When observed through the modern-day gambling lens, Sittman and Pitt slot machines more resembled a poker machine than an actual slot machine.

When observed through the modern-day gambling lens, Sittman and Pitt slot machines more resembled a poker machine than an actual slot machine.  

Although both slot machines and video poker feature describing the payouts for various combinations, they differ in the fact that video poker combinations are based on a deck of 52 (or 53) cards. Contrary to that, slot machine games don't have a specific reference they are based on. Also, the first slot machine as we know it today allowed automatic payouts

First Slot Machine: Liberty Bell Slot by Charles August Fey 

Charles Augustus Fey is usually considered slot machine creator and inventor of the first automatic slot machine, although there is no exact date on the record to when the machine was created. According to some notes, Fey created this machine somewhere between 1887 – 1895. But, how did he manage to make this slot an automatic one? 

Charles Augustus Fey created the first automatic slot machine somewhere between 1887 – 1895.

By using 3 reels instead of the existing 5 drums and, in doing so, reducing the intricacy of reading a win for the machine. Furthermore, the playing cards were replaced with 5 symbols only – hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and a liberty bell. 

The Liberty Bell slot machine awarded 3 bell symbols with the highest payout which is why the machine got the name that it did. As the machine gained massive popularity and Fey never applied for a patent for his design, numerous slot machine manufacturers copied it, with variations. 

Operator Bell by Herbert Mills: First Fruit Machine with Bar Symbol 

The tale of slot machine history wouldn’t be complete without Herbert Mills.

Although in 1902 slot machines were officially banned, the Liberty Bell didn’t stop from being manufactured. However, as it was impossible for cash prizes to be distributed any further, it was time for the fruit machine to step onto the stage of gambling entertainment and give everyone some candy! Wait, what? Yes, you’ve read it right – these “new” slot machines used fruit symbols, with each win paying out the corresponding flavour of sweets and chewing gum. 

The “new” slot machines used fruit symbols, with each win paying out the corresponding flavour of sweets and chewing gum. 

Mills slot machine history started in 1907, Chicago when manufacturer Herbert Mills produced the Operator Bell, a slot machine that would in just two years’ time find itself all around Chicago salons, shops, bowling alleys and tobacconists. And you know the BAR symbol we all know and love these days? Well, it was introduced right about this time and based on the Bell-Fruit company logo.

Money Honey Slot Machine by Bally: First Electromechanical Slot 

Year 1964 and the birth of the Money Honey slot changed everything. 

A jump from purely mechanical to electromechanical slots was a ground-breaking innovation everyone welcomed with an open embrace but slight scepticism as well. After all, going from machines that gave the impression of a controllable outcome due to their manual approach to an entirely electromechanical construction that was doing everything on its own sure was a novelty. 

However, the new slot machine was still started by pulling the lever which instilled a sense of familiarity into the players. After all, lever is why people loved the old-type slots as much as they did, and the sole reason why the slang expression “one armed bandits”, aka bandit machines came into existence.

Money Honey slot released by Bally was not only the first slot with all of its reels operated electrically but also the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper. A bottomless hopper enabled an automatic payout of up to 500 coins which was, in every way, spectacular for the time.

A bottomless hopper enabled an automatic payout of up to 500 coins which was, in every way, spectacular for the time.

Thanks to this game, electromechanical slots became hugely popular! Ultimately, the lever got removed from all new slots altogether. 

Fortune Coin by Fortune Coin: First Video Slot 

When it comes to the gambling world dynamic, stagnation has never been an option. A decade after Money Honey slot was released, the first true video slot was developed, marking year 1976 the year video slots were born.

A decade after Money Honey slot was released, the first true video slot was developed, marking year 1976 the year video slots were born.

The first video slot was manufactured by Fortune Coin, a Las Vegas based company and it was, expectedly, first available in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. For display, the game used a modified 19 inch Sony TV, and it was like nothing else of that type seen up to that point. 

Shortly after its first release, the video slot machine got approval from the Nevada State Gaming Commission and became hugely popular in the Las Vegas Strip. Just two years after its release, Fortune Coin was acquired by IGT.

Reel ‘Em In by WMS: First Slot With Second Screen Bonus Round 

If you’ll notice, the history of slots is filled with significant twists, turns and upgrades that have led gambling in a very interesting direction. The year important to remember is definitely 1996. This is when the first video slot was released, and it was the first slot to feature a second screen bonus round. 

In 1996 the first video slot was released, and it was the first slot to feature a second screen bonus round. 

The slot was named “Reel ‘Em”, and it was a huge success! This video slot was the first to feature a second screen bonus round which showed a completely different screen once displayed. Players could also win additional payouts that could be won during this bonus round. 

Released by WMS Industries Inc, this video slot may have set basis for the rapid flourishment of slots in general, making them the most popular entertainment across casinos. In fact, they got so popular that they took up 70% of the available floor space at casinos and grew responsible for around 70% of a casino’s income!

Online Gaming: The Rise of Internet Slots 

When in 1983 came the internet, it came with an overwhelming rush of content and the type of change very few of us (if any!) expected. With this change, a number of platforms started developing, online casinos included. The first ever InterCasino online casino came about in 1996, and changed the history of online casino operations. The same year, this casino accepted its first real money wager that year, marking the official start of what we, today, know as online gambling. 

The first ever InterCasino online casino came about in 1996, and changed the history of online casino operations.

At first, only classic casino games were featured, resembling those at land-based casinos. However, it wasn’t long before online slots were added, turning online casinos into hotspots of gambling fun. 

Similarly to the scenario in land-based casinos, slots rapidly became more popular than traditional casino games in an online setting too which quickly lead them to full dominance on the online gambling market. For a while, the slots remained similar to land-based slot machines in both style and the type of symbols and number of reels. 

Once computer programming removed restrictions, the era of online slots expansion begun! Before we knew it, slots were featuring unconventional layouts, more than 5 reels, a variety of themes, innovative bonus rounds, virtually an infinite number of different symbols and special game features.

To this day, the number of slot developers keeps increasing year after year, giving players an incredible assortment of slots to enjoy. The market currently features both small and big game providers, with some of the names like Microgaming and NetEnt taking the spotlight due to their quality of game development, and an active sense of innovation. 

Infographic showing different slot machines from history, including Liberty Bell Slot, Operator Bell, Money Honey Slot Machine and Fortune Coin, Reel ‘Em In, and the rise of online slots

Slot Machine Collections and Their Collectors

Once the online casinos took dominance and mechanical slot machines got replaced by electromechanical slots, the old type of slot machines were fully removed from the usage. But, where did all these old slot machines go?

Some of the places the old slot machines now find themselves residing are:

  • Casino basements, where they are kept as antiques
  • At private collectors’
  • At businesses that re-sell slot machines to collectors
  • Workshops, where they are either salvaged for parts or sold as scrap 

These days, avid slot machine collectors are willing to pay a hefty dime for their slot machine collection to get another item, and it is estimated that an original Sittman & Pitt trade stimulator goes for thousands of dollars. For the most part, you can find private collectors on eBay and similar platforms. 

Final Thoughts 

It is in human nature to enjoy provocation and anticipation that, hopefully, get followed by gratification called “winning”. The history of slots development is a fantastic example of how our primary instincts and processes haven’t changed through centuries, and that the only thing that has, indeed, changed are our appetites. They’ve grown. We hope you’ll enjoy every next slot spin you make, and that you now feel better, knowing what hides behind your favourite online fun!

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