The History and Evolution of Slot Machines
There hasn't been a single invention to shake up the world of gambling quite like the slot machine. These machines have been a fan favorite pretty much since their inception in the late 1800s. Now, you can't go to a casino - or log onto an online casino - without seeing hundreds of slots ringing and flashing. Today, we do something a little different and take a look at the history and evolution of everyone's favorite game: The Slot Machine
The Father of Slots
Our journey first takes us to the wonderful city of San Fransisco, California. It's here that the Bavarian-born Charles Fey invented what is commonly referred to as the first coin-operated slot machine with automatic payouts. And he called it The Liberty Bell.
The Liberty Bell was built to simulate a table card game of poker. It had three spinning reels each with five symbols: Diamonds. Hearts. Horseshoes. Spades. And - you guessed it - the Liberty Bell.
The machine's highest jackpot was 50 cents - paid out in 5 nickels - and players hit that when all three reels showed the Liberty Bell. So not only did Charles Fey create the first slot machine, he also came up with the first jackpot! As you can imagine, Fey's Liberty Bell machine was a massive success. It was a simple yet groundbreaking invention that suddenly gave players the chance to win huge sums of money on a single spin.
The Golden Age
The early 1900's saw the world's first 'fruit' themed slot machine. These featured the cherry, melon, apple, and bar symbols. However, due to the anti-gambling laws being enacted at this time, these machines didn't pay out cash - they paid out gum! Luckily for us, slots now pay out in cash. But these machines did give us the cherry and bar symbols which are now synonymous with slot machines.
It wasn't until America entered the Prohibition Era did slot machines really exploded in popularity. Since slot machines during this time were mainly found in the bars and salons that were getting shut down due to Prohibition, they moved with the alcohol and into speakeasies. It's here that they ditched paying out in gum and returned to offering players cash prizes. You can imagine the massive growth in popularity slot machines experienced during this time.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas
As gambling's popularity continued to grow, politicians were left with no choice but to legalize gambling. And that's exactly what they did in the state of Nevada in 1931. And in the 1940's, the first slots were installed in the iconic Flamingo Hotel. I don't know about you, but I can imagine the Rat Pack spinning a few games!
This first slots to be installed in the Flamingo were the traditional mechanical ones. But as it got too expensive to keep and maintain them, the shift was made to fully electromechanical devices.
The first of these was developed by Bally Manufacturing - a company who at that time was better known for making pin ball machines. In 1964 they gave the world the first fully electromechanical slot machine - Money Honey.
The Money Honey was true breakthrough for slot machines. Not only did it improve the overall gameplay by adding flashing lights and sounds, it allowed for multi-coin bets and much high payouts. It worked so well that Bally kept on improving their design and eventually went public in 1975 and started trading on the New York Stock Exchange as the first gaming company. So I'd say things worked out!
No story on slot machines would be complete without the mention of video slots. One of the first slots to feature video reels was Fortune Coin by Walt Fraley. After Mr. Fraley sold his patent, numerous additions and advancements were made, and video machines were proven to be fair and honest. The continued growth eventually led to machines having bonus games, multiple lines, progressive jackpots and much more.
The rows and rows of slots you see at any casino nowadays are the result of all this hard work.
The Online Boom
Somewhere along the line, people a lot smarter than this author realized that gambling didn't have to be found only in places like Las Vegas or Atlantic city. It could be on the internet as well. This gave players the opportunity to play their favorites games from the comfort of their own home and not have to pony up large amounts for airfare and hotels.
And at the heart of these online casinos is their slot machines. If you log onto just about any online casino, then you're going to see hundreds of different slots. Megaways, progressive, hot drop jackpots, 3-reel, 5-reel, 10-reel, multi-lines. Trusted and fair developers have emerged, giving players a continuous stream of great slots with a variety of themes.
And it doesn't stop at your laptop either. Many of this online casinos offer mobile play, allowing players to play the same collection of slots availing on their laptop on their phone or tablet.
But perhaps the most intriguing thing the online boom has given us in terms of slot play is the advancement of VR. While it's still being ironed out, players will soon have the ability to pop on a headset and actually feel like they're standing on a casino floor and pulling down on a 'one-armed bandit'. It's this advancement in technology that is allowing millions of people who never would have had the chance to play slots a chance to experience what it's like.
Slots have certainly come a long way. From Charles Fey's Liberty Bell, to the speakeasies of Prohibition, to Vegas and the Honey Money, to online casinos and VR. They are constantly growing and evolving, and it's no surprise why after hundreds of years, slot machines remain a player favorite.
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