The Who, What, Where and How of Slot Machines

If you’re a fan of online Slots, we’re sure you must have wondered once or twice where it all began. If not, we’re going to tell you anyway! From the high-paced action of casino games on Paddy Power, it’s hard to believe that casino gaming used to be so primitive, at least compared to the gaming options that we have today.

So, let’s start off with the what

Slot machines were originally known as one-armed bandits or fruit machines. The basic idea was that putting one or more coins/tokens into the slot on a machine, would then grant you the opportunity to activate your gaming experience, by then either pulling a lever or pushing a button, the latter being what we’re more familiar with today. 

The game would consist of reels, which were spinning columns that contained potentially-lucrative images – more commonly known as symbols. Winnings would then drop down into a trough at the bottom of the machine – but that hasn’t always been the case! In the beginning, the very first machines would be found in pubs and you’d go up to the bar to collect your prize – which would come in the form of cigarettes and free drinks. 

In 1891, America, Sittman and Pitt developed the five drum machine which was filled with 50 playing cards. This machine is where it all began, although aforementioned prizes had to be collected at the bar.

Charles Fey is credited as the inventor of the first ever slot machine that could pay out its own winnings, and is thought to have been manufactured sometime between 1887-1895, although the exact date is unknown. To make this development possible, Fey simplified the game, replacing the five drums with three reels. 

We also saw the playing cards transformed into just five key symbols – hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and a liberty bell. The key to winning the big bucks with this version of the machine was to roll in three bell symbols, and with that, Fey named his machine the Liberty Bell. Charles Fey was based in San Francisco when he invented the Liberty Bell, in between working at various electronic companies.

Fast forward to 1907, and Chicago based manufacturer Herbert Mills developed the Operator Bell. Due to a ban on slot machines in 1902, cash prizes were no longer an option when it came to this type of gaming. The Operator was filled with fruit symbols, and the prizes would now come in the form of chewing gum and sweets of corresponding flavors to the fruit that had been matched with. By 1908, Mills’ machine could be found in all tobacconists, bowling alleys and salons. The Operator Bell was also the birth place of the BAR symbol which we still recognize today. 

But how did the concept of the slot machine get to where it is today? Well, in 1964 the first completely electro-mechanical slot machine was created, released by Bally, and named the Money Honey. Whilst the reels were spinning electronically, the action was still triggered by a lever. This allowed players to retain a certain level of familiarity with the game, despite the new look. Money Honey had the power to pay out automatically up to 500 coins at a time – a revelation!

By 1976, the first true video slot made its debut, by the Las Vegas based company Fortune Coin. The Vegas Hilton Hotel was the first place to house one of these machines, boasting a modified 19-inch Sony TV screen. After a few extra tweaks, this high-tech slot machine got approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission and was distributed far and wide across the Las Vegas strip. 

Lastly, you may be wondering how the classic game made its way online. In 1996, the internet boomed and the first online casinos were developed. With this exciting advancement, players could first play Roulette and Blackjack from the comfort of their own home, with Slots coming soon after. And they’ve continued to flourish with new themes and features ever since!

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