A Brief History of The Slot Machine

Feature Image Here >Image< Slot machines are great fun, but have you ever stopped to think about the history behind them?


Most of us have placed a coin in a slot machine. Some of us may even have played on a slot machine without inserting a coin. Nowadays you needn’t part with any money at all, casinos often offer no deposit bonuses. An example is VegasSlotsOnline, they offer no deposit bonuses for operators like LVBet Casin, Reloadbet Casino and more. According to them, the biggest advantage is that it lets you decide whether the casino you’ve signed up with is right for you, totally risk-free.


So, how did the slot machine evolve from its humble beginnings to the increasingly technological phenomenon that it is today?


19th Century Slot Machines

The term slot machine was first used to describe vending machines, referring to the process of putting (usually a nickel) into the slot. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the phrase came to describe an altogether different machine.


The original slot machines, commonplace around 1880, were less about winning money and more about the spectacle. Often slot machines would feature two animatronic race horses, who would jolt into action when a coin was inserted. These machines encouraged betting between the customers in the bar and the bar owner. Often a couple of drinks went to the winner of the bet, or very occasionally some actual money. The owner of the bar was generally the person that came off the best, as they, of course, had all of the coins that had been put into the machine. 


By the end of the 1880’s there were a few slot machines that paid out directly to the gambler. Once the coin was inserted, there was a point at which it would tip over the scale inside the machine, allowing coins to spill out to the lucky person. These weighing scale machines gave rise to the slot machine shark, who’d count other people’s coins going into the machine, then sneak in just before the jackpot. 


Late 19th Century Advancements

The first slot machines that are comparable to the ones we know today were invented by Charles August Fey. Based in San Fransisco, Fey spent the time that he wasn’t working tinkering with slot machines in his garage. Before long he’d invented what we now know as the 4-11-44. The machine was placed in a local saloon and proved so lucrative that Fey was able to quit his job and pursue his slot machine making hobby full time.


In 1898 the same inventor built the Card Bell. This machine had that crank handle that we all known and love, as well as the archetypal three spinning reels. For the first time players could put in a coin, crank the handle and wait for the reels to land on three matching symbols. As soon as they did, Fey’s clever mechanism caused the machine to churn out a few coins. He continued inventing, creating most notably the Liberty Bell machines, some of which still survive today. 


Early 20th Century Setbacks

Fey’s slot machines had become commonplace along with plenty of other competitors. By 1909 there were more than 3000 slot machines in the city of San Fransisco and noticing this trend, the powers that be decided to do something about it. Coin operated machines were banned outright. Machine makers were forced to get creative. Slotless machines, were placed in saloons, and players would purchase turns from the barman. If they won, they would be paid in drinks. Unfortunately this method of play didn’t generate nearly as much income and soon manufacturers were looking for something new.


That same year the ‘chewing gum’ machine was invented. These machines featured many of the fruit symbols we know and love today. These symbols were meant to suggest the kind of gum to fall out of the machine, which in some dud machines it actually did. However in most machines, lining up a specific pattern of these fruit would result in all of the change falling out of the machine. It was a little dodgy, but a lot more popular than any alternative.


Image Here >Image< Caption: Vintage gum machines still exist and are in use today.


The Slot Machine Heyday

The 1920s saw a boom in slot machine use and they became commonplace in all resort areas in the United States. It wasn’t until 1945 that slot machines gained worldwide popularity, as governments across the world recognized their potential for taxation. With worldwide success comes a whole lot more inventors working hard on the next exciting thing. 


So in 1950, the first electromechanical slot machine was invented. This machine was revolutionary in its ability to payout amounts proportional to what had been placed in the machine between handle pulls. 


The Modern Day Machine

Modern slot machines have been around since around 1975, principally in Las Vegas, These machines feature musical sounds, crank handles, colorful reels and increasingly wide jackpot options. One super jackpot in Las Vegas paid a single lucky user $40 million! Despite these sometimes enormous payouts, slot machines are credited with providing around 30-50% of casino income. 


Online casinos sprung up in the 1990’s and they’ve got a share of the market that’s all their own. The direction of the slot machine’s advancement from this point is anybody’s guess, but many experts place their bets on an increasingly divided market, split between online slot machines, and mega brick and mortar casinos. 


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