Slots: Where it All Began

by Staff & Contributors

When you play casino online you never really find yourself questioning the origin of the games. Slots machines, in their most primitive form, date all the way back to 1887. Back then, they were referred to as a “poker gambling machine” and made out of hard steel with fine lined patterns engraved into the metal. The inside of the game consisted of 5 drums with a total of 50 playing cards inside. Developed by a New York-based company called Sittman and Pitt, these machines could be found in many bars across America, and cost a mere nickel to play. Players would insert their money into the designated slot and pull the lever to trigger the machine’s movement. To win, the player would have to line up poker hands across the reels. To increase the functionality of the game the Ten of Spades and the Jack of Hearts were removed from the machine, reducing the chances of getting a royal flush by 50%, making an overall win a far more respectable feat. At this time, the machine had no direct way of paying out the “winnings” so the player would have to collect these at the bar in the form of free drinks and cigars. 

In 1891, the world of Slots welcomed the Liberty Bell. This was the first machine that allowed an automatic cash pay-out when a win was triggered. The man responsible for this advancement in the world of slots is a Mr. Charles Augustus Fey, who it is believed began developing his contribution as soon as the original design was released in 1887. Fey replaced the existing five drums with the three reels that we know today. He also replaced the playing cards with symbols such as hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and a liberty bell. To win the highest pay-out, the player must achieve three bell symbols in a row – the very reason that earnt the machine its namesake. Unfortunately, Fey didn’t think to apply a patent to his design so, as the machines gained increasing popularity, his ideas were copied by many other slot machine manufacturers. 

By 1902 the first fruit machine had been created, along with the BAR symbol. Slot machines were officially banned at this time, however they continued to be manufactured. Fruit machines were distributed across most tobacconists, bowling alleys, shops and salons, but with the opportunity to win a cash prize removed. Instead the lucky winners could walk away with chewing gum and sweets, corresponding with the symbols you had matched. The machines remained mechanical for many years, the need to actually pull the lever giving players the feeling that they could physically control the game.  

1976 saw the introduction of the first true video screen slot machine. The games used a modified 19-inch display screen, and were originally made available in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel to trial the new look of Slots machines. After further cheat-proofing and editing of the software, the video slot machine was approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission to be widely distributed across the Vegas strip. 

As the years went by, Slots machines were increasingly improved. 1996 welcomed the introduction of second screen bonuses that, when triggered, would go on to take over the screen before returning to the main game when finished. The bonus rounds offered additional pay-outs, something that had previously not been possible. As the developments kept coming, Slots machines began to take over the majority of a casino’s income, their popularity quite simply unmatched. 

Today, Slots machines are still undoubtedly a fan favourite. We often see them dotted around in our local pubs and of course, lining the walls of every betting shop. Slots became so popular that they also hit the online market. You can now easily access all of your favourite Slots at the click of a button. So, come on, what are you waiting for?


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