The History of Slots – How Slots Conquered the Gambling Industry

History of slots

5 minutes

Posted by: David

It’s safe to say that slots are the most popular casino games ever made. Regardless of regular or progressive, in land-based or online casinos, there are countless varieties of slot games you can enjoy without ever getting bored.

But, how did these simple and fun games become so popular? Who invented the first slot, and how long have slot machines been around?

These days, there are so many entertaining games out there. You can play King Kong Cash demo and other fun slots for free, but this wasn’t always the case.

Let’s go over the exciting history of slots to see how these games evolved over the years and how much of an impact they had on shaping the gambling industry.

The 1880s – Invention of the First Slot Machine

Charles Augustus Fey, a mechanic from San Francisco, is often credited as the inventor of the first mechanical slot machine.

Although there were already some slot machines invented at the time, they required an attendant to make the payout in case of a win.

Fey modified the machines between 1887 and 1895 to introduce a model that would directly pay out the winner in coins.

In 1896 or 1897, Fey went on to open up his first slot machine workshop. In 1898, he invented the Liberty Bell slot machine, which quickly became the most popular slot machine of its time.

The Liberty Bell slot machine was very innovative, as it used three reels instead of the classic five drums. It also replaced standard playing cards with five symbols unique to the game.

These included hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes, and a liberty bell as the most rewarding symbol.

But, as Fey didn’t apply a patent for his design, the Liberty Bell slot machine was quickly copied by several other manufacturers.

Early 20th Century – Prevailing Through Restrictions

In 1902, all slot machines were officially banned in the US. Despite this, many manufacturers continued making slots.

But, since operators couldn’t offer cash prizes, they thought of a way to go around the legal restrictions. They did so by introducing fruit symbols, ushering in the era of the so-called “fruit machines.”

These fruit machines would pay out players in different sweets and chewing gum based on the flavor they line up on the reels. A few years later, in 1907, the first Operator Bell slot was invented.

It soon found its way into many salons and shops all across the US. These machines hold a significant historical value, as they were the first to introduce the famous BAR symbol we recognize today.

Emergence of fruit machines

After prohibition ended in the US during the 1930s, the slot machine market experienced a massive expansion.

As the first Las Vegas casinos started opening their doors, slot games became a hit among the visiting players.

During the 1940s and 1950s, slot machines in casinos were mainly used to entertain girlfriends and wives of high rollers while they were spending their money at classic casino table games.

For the next several decades, slot machines stayed the same, in the sense that all models were always solely mechanical.

You would play every game by pulling on a lever, which triggers a complex spring system inside the machine. As the spring slowly gets back to its original position, it stops the reels to reveal the outcome.

The 1960s – First Electromechanical Slots

The manual approach that made the first machines famous in the late 19th century remained the same for over 70 years. That is, until the 1960s and the invention of the first electromechanical slot machines.

The first slot of this nature came from the now well-known company Bally and was called Money Honey.

Money Honey still used a lever to operate the game, but all reels ran electrically instead of mechanically.

As Money Honey and other electromechanical slots became more popular, the lever was removed. Rather, the players would now interact with the game by pushing a button.

The 1970s and Onwards – Emergence of Sophisticated Electronic Slot Machines

During the 1970s, slot players were surprised by a new type of game – video slots. In 1976, the first true video slot was created, which used a modified 19’’ TV as the display.

In the next two decades, slot manufacturers perfected video slots, creating complex multi-round games which took over the industry.

These changes cemented slots’ place as the most popular type of casino games. By the late 90s, slots made up over two-thirds of every casino’s income.

Online Slots – A New Way to Experience the Game

The rapid spread of the Internet in the 1990s also did wonders for the casino industry, especially slot games.

Contrary to popular belief, slots weren’t among the first online casino games added to the first gambling sites, as only games like roulette, poker, and blackjack were available for the first few years.

Introduction of modern video slots

But, not long after, the first online slot games were added to the booming online gambling sites. And, it didn’t take them long to surpass all other games in terms of popularity.

With advanced computing technology, software providers had endless programming freedom in terms of gameplay and structure.

This lack of restrictions allowed companies to create a very diverse gambling genre, marked by various themes, symbols, and varying levels of complexity.

Today, there’s no precise number of how many online slot games are available, but estimates say that there are thousands of unique titles out there.

When it comes to online slot jackpots, these have also reached mind-boggling heights compared to the early days.

Today’s online slot payouts can go toe to toe with some of the largest slot machine payouts in land-based casinos. Over the past few years, there have been several online slot jackpots worth well over $10 million.

Overall, slot games have come a long way in a little over a century since they first came up. Unlike some other traditional casino games, which have remained unchanged for a long time, slots are constantly evolving.

This is perhaps the most enticing and delightful aspect of the game. As slots continue to advance in the future, there’s no telling what treats we can expect in the following years.

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