History of slots

History of slots

Slot machines are so popular and for this reason, they exist in almost all casinos; both online and land-based casinos. Tangible slot machines are found in land-based casinos while online casinos feature virtual slot games. They all function the same though modern online casinos have some differences in looks and other features. Slots, in general, have a long history from many years ago. Until this moment, there is still a discourse concerning the original inventor of slots and when the invention was made. However, there are only two extensively recognized accounts of how the slot first came about.

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The first account shows that the earliest device ever made was the Liberty Bell. This machine was invented by Charles Fey in 1887. This device features only three reels with five symbols along with a spade, a heart, a horseshoe, a diamond and the liberty bell.

The second version shows that Fey only developed his machine later in 1895. According to this account, therefore, the initial device was unveiled in 1891 by Pitt and Sittman. This machine was not tightly based on poker but there were just 50 cards used. The cards appeared on 5 spinning drums which displayed a five-card poker hand per spin – each drum had 10 cards.

Evolution of the Slots


The first slot was created by a company based in New York. You would be required to insert your money into the machine then pull the lever for you to play. You would then receive your payout once you line up the poker hands on the slot reels. This machine had no immediate payout system, hence wins were collected at the bar. You would receive things like cigars and free drinks instead of monetary prizes.

1887 – 1895

It is believed that the Liberty Bell was designed during this period. It was the first slot to ever allow automatic payouts. Fey, who is believed to have invented the first slot machine, reduced the difficulty in reading wins for the Liberty Bell hence giving it the ability to remit payments automatically. He replaced the five drums with three reels and the playing cards with the previously mentioned five symbols. The biggest payout was offered for three bell symbols. Unfortunately, Fey never applied for a patent to protect his design, so other slot machine manufacturers copied his design.

1902 – 1908

Slot machines were officially banned in the year 1902, but the Liberty Bell went on with being manufactured. Due to the ban, cash prizes would not be distributed any longer, but the fruit machine cropped in to save the day. These machines operated using fruit symbols and then the prizes were given out as sweets and chewing gum according to the corresponding slot flavour. In 1907, Herbert Mills, a manufacturer based in Chicago manufactured a slot known as the Operator Bell. This machine would then feature in most shops, salons, bowling alleys and tobacconists in the following year.

More Developments

Slot machines remained absolutely mechanical for other more years. Mechanical slots required you to pull down the lever setting the reels in motion. Pulling on the lever would then stretch a certain spring in the slot machine and gradually, the reels would stop spinning. It is this lever that led to the famous “one-armed bandits” slang expression. This physical approach to the slot games gave players the impression that they were able to control the game itself and the outcome.


The first ever fully electromechanical slot machine was developed in this year. The slot, known as Money Honey, was delivered by Bally. The reels of this slot were operated completely electrically, though the lever was still used to start the game. This was the first machine to come with a bottomless hopper hence enabling it to make automatic payouts up to 500 coins. This game became so popular leading to an increased dominance of the electromechanical slots. It was not long before the famous lever was eliminated from the newer slots.

1976 – 1978

In 1976, there was another milestone for the slots journey; the first real video slot was created. This slot was produced by Fortune Coin in Kearny Mesa California. It used a tweaked 19-inch Sony TV for display and was made available for the first time in Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. Soon after some modifications and cheat-proofing, this video slot machine was approved by Nevada State Gaming Commission and it became trendy in the Las Vegas Strip. Later on, in 1978, this machine was acquired by IGT.

The Year 1996 Onwards

Another huge milestone in the journey of the slots turned up in 1996 when the “Reel ‘Em” designed by WMS Industries Inc was released. This video slot was the first one to come with a 2nd screen bonus round. After triggering this bonus round, an entirely new screen was displayed and the bonus game would be played there. During this round, players would receive additional payouts. During this period, the slots gain a lot of popularity in the casinos offering the casinos about 70% of their income and occupied about 70% of the casino`s floor spaces.

The Rise of the Online Video Slots

The internet saw a huge boom in the mid 90’s and with this came the creation of the first real online casino. In the beginning, only the classic games like blackjack and roulette were offered but soon, slots joined the movement. During the early days, the technique of the slot games was similar to those of land-based slot machines. The number of reels and type of symbols was same, but computer programming widened the limits. New types of games emerged with more interesting themes, unusual layouts and game structures. These days, it is common to find online slots with unconventional layouts and more than five reels as well as plenty of symbols, special game feature and innovative bonus rounds.

As for the jackpot slots, they have managed to get to new heights since their first appearance online. The first ever online jackpot slot offered was the Cash Splash, from Microgaming. It offered only moderately high payouts, but there have since been newer and more exciting jackpot games offering outstanding prizes.

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