Perhaps one of the most enduring symbols of casinos is the slot machine. This simple invention dominates casino floors, generating up to 80% of their revenue.
Slot machines have a long history, evolving into the money generator that underpins casino profits today. Whether online on platforms such as SlotXO or in physical casinos worldwide, there are thousands of slots to choose from if you are a casino enthusiast.
Where did slot machines originate? Here, we examine the origins and history of slot machines and look at how the ongoing popularity of online casinos is taking this fun gambling activity to the next level.
The Origins of Slot Machines
In 1891, New York-based Sittman and Pitt invented the first slot machine with five drums and 50 playing cards. Players would place a nickel into the slot and pull a lever to play, winning payouts if they lined up poker hands on the reels. This precursor to modern slots had no direct payouts, so players collected their wins at the bar.
Between 1887 and 1895, Charles Augustus Fey invented and refined the first true slot machine, The Liberty Bell. It was the first machine to give automatic payouts.
Fey replaced the playing cards with five symbols (diamonds, horseshoes, spades, hearts, and one liberty bell) and five drums with three reels. Players who got three bells won the highest payout, giving this slot machine its name. Unfortunately, Fey did not patent his invention, leading other manufacturers to copy it.
Despite a ban on slot machines in 1902, the manufacture of The Liberty Bell continued, but as cash prizes were no longer legal, the use of fruit symbols as prizes paid out in the form of sweets began.
This payout system, further enhanced by the slot machine known as The Operator Bell, was developed in 1907 by Chicago-based entrepreneur Herbert Mills and is the precursor to the modern slot machine we have come to know and love in countless casinos and bars today.
The Development of Modern Slot Machines and the Rise of Online Slots
In the 20th Century, slot machines remained mechanical, requiring players to pull a lever that set the reels in motion. In 1964, however, Bally released the first electromechanical slot machine called the Money Honey with a bottomless hopper that enabled it to make automatic 500-coin payouts.
Between 1976 and 1978, Fortune Coin (later acquired by IGT) invented the first video slot, which used a modified 19-inch Sony TV display.
The next slot milestone occurred in the 1990s when WMS Industries Inc. created the “Reel ’Em,” the first video slot with a second screen bonus round that offered additional payouts. This slot machine became popular with casino enthusiasts.
With the rise of the internet in the late 1990s, slot machines took the opportunity to go online on platforms such as SlotXO. Due to computer programming and endless online real estate, these online slots offered a broader game selection with better payouts, bonuses, and odds.
Developers such as Microgaming, Playtech, Realistic Games, and NetEnt dominated this space, creating engaging games like Mega Moolah, Cash Splash, Goblin’s Cave, Starburst, and Sunrise Reels that players have come to know and love.