A close-up of slot machines in a casino

Do you enjoy playing slots online? Have you ever wondered where slot machines came from and who invented them? Then buckle in for a short history lesson! The word slot machine was initially used in a more general sense. You could call a gambling machine a slot machine. You could also use this term for an automatic vending machine. It was much later that the term came to be used solely for the gambling device that’s become a permanent fixture in casinos all over the world.

Read on as we talk about the history of slot machines in more detail.

The First Mechanical Slot Machine

As per the history books, the first mechanical slot machine was invented in 1895. It was christened as the Liberty Bell. We’ll tell you why in a bit. The invention of this machine is credited to Charles Fey, a car mechanic in San Francisco. The reels in this slot machine carried four key symbols: a diamond, a heart, a spade, and a cracked liberty bell. If you wanted to win a jackpot, you had to get a spin having 3 liberty bells in a row. At the time, this jackpot would amount to 50 cents.

Previously, slot machines did not offer an automatic payout either. Instead, an attendant had to be present for this. The Liberty Bell was unique in this sense. It was the first slot machine that could pay out coins.

Fey also made changes to make the machine smarter. This was mainly because players learned how to trick the machine into accepting fake wooden coins in the place of nickels. This compromised the profitability of the game for the owners. Fey addressed the issue by adding a detecting pin to the payment process. This was the first detecting pin to have been invented. Since the trade check had a hole in the center, the detecting pin could check the coins that were inserted in the machine to separate fake coins from real ones.

Introduction of Fruit Symbols

You can still find slot machines that have the liberty bell symbol. However, most slot machines now carry fruit symbols. The history behind this is very interesting. You see, the first slot machines existed in saloons and offered payouts in the form of beer and cigars. These were replaced with cash payouts when the Liberty Bell machine was introduced. However, during the prohibition movement in the early 1900s, these machines came to be associated with alcohol. Many religious leaders then discouraged their followers from playing slot games. They also supported laws that declared gambling illegal.

Eventually, the protests translated into a ban on cash slot machines in the San Francisco area. The rage surrounding slot machines shifted to Chicago instead. Unfortunately, this also invited the mob to become involved in the slot machine business.

With slot machines connected to organized crime, it was no longer just religious leaders who took a hard stance against them. Politicians also decided that slot games were no good and anti-gambling legislation soon followed.

The ban on slot machines affected manufacturers. Eventually, the Industry Novelty Company found a way to circumvent the ban by inventing what they said were “chewing gum dispensers.” You could put in a coin, pull the machine’s lever, and watch the reels spin. However, instead of the symbols used in previous slot machines, you would see pictures of fruit. When you’d get a row of symbols with the same fruit, the machine would dispense chewing gum of the same flavor.

The mechanics were still the same but associating chewing gum and pictures of fruit with organized crime or other evil notions was a lot harder. This helped  shape public perception in favor of slot machines who found them innocent and fun. 

The Introduction of the Electronic Slot Machine

The first electromechanical slot machine was invented in 1963 by a manufacturer who went by the name of Bally. Previously, slot machines utilized a spring and lever system. You could pull the lever and this would allow the spring to spin the reels. A series of gears would then hold on to each reel and stop the reels. Electromechanical slot machines worked differently. There was still a level installed but it did not control the game. Instead, electricity was used to spin the wheels. This machine was called the Money Honey.

Besides its working mechanism, the Money Honey also came with a bottomless hopper. This allowed it to make much bigger payments that could go up to 500 coins. This was significantly higher than the payouts offered by Charles Fey’s machines which offered a maximum payout of $5.

The Money Honey was also able to use these elements to offer multipliers that offered customers larger prizes passed on how many coins were inserted.

The Invention Of Video Slot Machines

13 years after the invention of the electromechanical machine, video slot machines came to the fore. These machines were invented by the Fortune Coin Company who used a 19-inch Sony TV to showcase spinning symbols. The Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas was the first to offer this machine. 

Video slot machines also used computer technology to generate the outcome of the game. This technology eventually evolved into the random number generators that we find in slot machines today.

Wrapping It Up

Various slot machines in a casino
A row of slot machines

The history of slot machines doesn’t end here, of course. Over the years, we have seen coins get replaced by tickets. Slot machines have also seen new features, new game themes, and better graphics. Progressive jackpots came into the picture too in 1986. Today, you can also play slots online. Safe to say, slot machines have come a long way since the invention of the Liberty Bell machine.

It remains to be seen how slot games will evolve in the coming years, but for now, online slots have cemented a place in online casinos and are here to stay.

Are you interested in learning more? Keep following Enjoy Slots and stay up-to-date with new tips and advice on how to play slots online!

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