History and Evolution of Slot Machines


Posted: April 29, 2020

Updated: April 29, 2020

Slot machines are one of the most popular casino games in the world. Both online casino sites in the US and land-based casinos have them. However, how was the slot machine invented and what made it so popular? Let’s take a look at the history and evolution o slot machines. 

Slot machines are one of the most popular casino games in the world. Both online casino sites in the US and land-based casinos have them. However, how was the slot machine invented and what made it so popular? Let’s take a look at the history and evolution o slot machines.

Slot machines, fruit machines, and a one-armed bandit

Firstly, let’s take a look at the name’s origin. Interestingly, the original term “slot machine” was used for both slot machines and vending machines. But later on, people started to distinguish between these two. One of the earliest names for slot machines was the “nickel-in-the-slot”. Here, the world “slot” stands for the place where players inserted coins, and nickel stands for a 5 cent coin – a standard wager.

Another name for a slot machine was a “one-armed bandit”. This referred to a large lever, which players used to pull in order to stop the reels. However, as the leaver was replaced with a button, slot machines stopped to be called that way. Slot machines are still sometimes referred to as fruit machines, due to the symbols of fruits and candies on the reels.

History and evolution of slot machines: Sittman and Pitt

There are different versions of who invented the slot machine. According to one of them, the first slot machines were invented by the New-York based company, Sittman and Pitt, back in 1891.

Some people believe that the first versions of slot machines only had 3 spinning reels and the number of reels was later raised to 5. However, Sittman and Pitt produced slot machines with 5 reels, because the winning combinations were based on poker.

History and Evolution of Slot Machines
The origin of slot machines is not totally clear.

Payouts were also based on poker combinations. The lowest-ranking combination was a pair of Kings. And as you might guess, all the payouts were given manually. Moreover, sometimes casino staff gave prizes instead of money. For example, if a player had a Flash Royal, then they could win 100 cigars. Impressive, isn’t it? After all, one spin cost only 5 cents. Besides, bar and restaurant owners often bought these machines in order to attract new clients.

Slot machines’ origin: Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell

According to another version, Charles Fey invented a prototype of the modern slot machine back in 1895. The first slot machine was basically a chamber with spinning reels and a lever. Fey’s slot machine had only three reels; however, the idea was the same – in order to win, a player needed to have 3 identical pictures lined up.

Moreover, Fey’s machine had various symbols on each reel. For instance, there were stars, horseshoes, card suits, and Liberty Bells. In case someone had 3 Liberty Bells lined up, a player won 50 cents. After a while, people started to call the machine a Liberty Bell.

History and Evolution of Slot Machines
The origin is unsure.

After Charles Fey created the slot machine, lots of gambling companies offered to invest in it. Fey signed a contract with the Mills Novelty Company and they started to manufacture slot machines under the Mills Liberty Bell name. Herbert Mills, a founder of the company, modified some features of the machine – for instance, he made the game screen larger and added new symbols. With such a huge amount of investments and some new features, slot machines became even more popular all over the country.

Candy for a spin?

In 1902, slot machines gained huge popularity all over the US. However, as machines started to get more popular, numerous states started to ban them. At that point in time, Fey found a way to get around the ban and came out with a new version of the machine, with fruits and candies on its reels. In states where slot machines were prohibited, people couldn’t win money. However, the ban didn’t apply to prizes, so people could win anything –  from packs of candies to household equipment and furnishing.

This idea not only helped to circumvent the ban but also determined the aesthetics of slot machines all around the world. Such symbols as cherries, bananas, and bars can still be found in online slots.

History and Evolution of Slot Machines
Vending machine or slot?

In fact, slot machines were operating as vending machines for a long time. But after gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, slot machines started giving cash payouts again. At that point in time, they were seen as a distraction for wives of those who were playing in casinos. However, after the gambling legalization, slots gained popularity among the male audience as well.

In the 30s, Fey and Mills Novelty Company created a “Silent Bell” – a new version of the slot machine, which produces less noise and had higher payouts. The annoying sound which notified players about their victory was no longer operating.

Which version is true?

Although both of these versions are legitimate, we don’t know who came up with the idea of the slot machine first. However, there is no doubt that both Sittman and Pitt and Charles Fay have contributed in history and evolution of slot machines.

Slot machines and RNG

In the 70s, slot machine manufacturers started to install the Random Number Generators. The RNG generated a set of random numbers and stopped reels at a certain point. This not only made it harder to scam a casino but also resulted in the creation of progressive online slots. Furthermore, the lever was replaced with a simple button, making it harder to mess with the machine’s mechanisms. Slot machines became so popular, that they made up more than ⅔ of each casino.

Finally, the invention of the Internet became a turning point in the history of slot machines. Casinos and poker rooms started to launch online gambling sites in the US, and adapt land-based casino games to new technologies. Although the publicity was suspicious in the first place, online gambling soon took over the gambling industry. Nowadays, you don’t have to go to a local casino and pull a lever in order to win a jackpot. For instance, CyberSpins Casino offers a great selection of online slots both in traditional and new settings. And if you want to know more about where to play slots online, check out our review about CyberSpins Casino.

You can discover more about CyberSpins Casino here.

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