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The History of the Slot Machine

| 03.10.2017

Slot machines are one the most popular games ever invented. This age-old machine has adapted overtime, steadily progressing with the evolution of technology. So now, whether online or land-based, there are quite literally thousands of games to choose from.

Here we look back at the origins of the great slot machine and see how it has evolved over the years to the on-the-go slots gaming experience we know of today.

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Coral Vegas slots

Early Inventions

The origins of the slot machine can be traced back to 19th Century New York where the precursor to the modern slot machine was invented by Sittman and Pitt. Containing 5 drums, this machine held 50 card faces and was based on the popular game of poker. Players would insert their coin, pull the lever and hope to win a good poker hand. Attracting big crowds, they were soon found in saloons across the US.  In these early machines there was no payout mechanism, so a winning hand would often win the player a free drink or other non-monetary prizes.

Despite the early poker game, many believe the true slot machine was born in 1895, aptly coined by punters as “the one armed bandit”. Created by Charles Fey, this machine was simpler in design, featuring only three reels, and would allow automatic payouts. Instead of a card-based game, the machine, named ‘the Liberty Bell’, had symbols that would line up to create winning combinations. It was a huge success and the design was eventually copied by competing manufactures.

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Coral Vegas slots

Machine Development

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By 1902 slot machines that awarded monetary prizes were officially banned in the US, which paved the way for the era of the fruit machine. Like the one armed bandits, these used 3 reels, but the payout was often chewing gum or sweets of the corresponding flavour to the winning fruit combinations. The Operator Bell, created in 1907 was the first fruit machine with the BAR symbol.

With new technology came new gaming experiences. In 1964 Bally created the first electromechanical slot machine, titled ‘Money Honey’. The machine still featured the recognisable lever but the components inside were operated entirely electrically.

When 1976 hit, the slots business really took off. This was the year of the first true video slot machine, which featured a modified 19 inch Sony TV used as the display screen. It was first showcased in a hotel in Las Vegas, but after a few tweaks it was soon dominating the Las Vegas Strip.

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Gaming in Britain

According to British law up until 1960, a machine had to involve an element of skill if it paid out a prize.  Consequently early British machines were formerly games of skill (such as ball games, cranes, or shooting games), or non-payout types (such as fortune tellers, viewers, juke boxes, or pintables).

However, after the creation of one armed bandits and fruit machines in the US, they soon emerged on British shores where they quickly became popular in pubs and in the quintessentially British seaside arcades.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, slot machines reached new levels of success with the addition of video technology. Not constrained by physical mechanics or dimensions, video slots revolutionised the industry. These highly developed machines would feature bonus rounds and additional payouts, and used advanced graphics to fit an array of themes to attract new players. Video slots were responsible for around 70% of a casino’s income, and also took up 70% of the available floor space.

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The New Era of Slot Machines

 Coral Vegas slots The rise of the Internet in the mid 90s sparked a whole new realm of slots gaming. The first casino games to be developed online were the classic roulette and blackjack, but as technology advanced and graphics improved, online slot machines soon emerged on our screens.

At first, online slots remained true to land-based designs with three reels and the same symbols. Yet once computer programming advanced, new styles of game play options soon emerged bringing thousands of new themes with superior graphics.

Slot machine games are available on mobile and tablet and are now the most played UK online casino game. With today’s technology the future of slot machines are only limited to the designer’s imagination and if one thing is for sure they will only get better.




William Geldart