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History of slot machines

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The history of the slot machine, from yesterday to today

If you've ever been to a casino, you've no doubt noticed how popular slot machines are. Their simplicity plays a big part in this success: a single lever to pull or button to press and you can potentially hit the jackpot! A very addictive game of chance, for some.

Started in the USA in the 19th century, they are still one of the most played games at casinos. It is believed around one third of casino profits come from these games! Both available in brick and mortar and online casinos like Wunderino online casino, they are everywhere to be seen and there are hundreds of games to choose from.

Whether they are called "slot machines" (USA), "pokies" (Australia, in reference to the poker symbols that the very first machine displayed) or even "fruit machine" (in England, because many games's symbols were fruits), these entertaining games have a prolific history of innovations.

Who invented the slot machine?

Sittman and Pitt, the precursors.

The first occurrence of a slot machine dates back to 1891. We owe the invention to the company Sittman & Pitt, based in the Brooklyn district of New York.

The Sittman & Pitt Slot Machine

Although the essentials are there (the mechanism of the lever and the principle of the game), this slot machine was more like a poker machine, where the symbols are cards from a deck of 52 playing cards. On the machine are 5 drums containing 50 cards, face down.

Instead of pressing a button, the machine had a lever that you had to pull after placing money inside. Then the drums rotated the cards, and the goal was to get a strong hand (a good combination of cards, like in poker). The rewards from these machines were not automatic. Sometimes the prize could just be a beer to be picked up at the bar where they were available!

Charles Fey and the Liberty Bell

The very first machine to adopt the principle of symbols was not invented until 1895 by a man called Charles Fey, in California. His machine (the Liberty Bell, or "freedom bell", a symbol of American independence) has three reels and had the ability to trigger payouts automatically.

Unlike Sitmann & Pitt's cards, Fey's machine featured symbols: hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes, not to mention the famous liberty bell that gave it its name! These symbols had to line up in order to create a winning payout. The simplicity of its operation earned it a colossal success, so much so that the machine was quickly copied by the competition.

As its popularity grew, people began to call it the one-armed bandit in reference to the single lever placed on the side of the machine. With great success, Fey eventually opened the Slot Machine Factory in 1896. Today, the original Liberty Bell can no longer be played but can be admired at the museum in Reno (a city devoted to gambling like Las Vegas) where it is exposed.

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The evolution of slot machines: a long history of innovations

From the beginning these slot machines have evolved a lot, continually improving the player's experience. The launch of electronic machines led to an important change, the replacement of the lever! No need to pull it down to spin the reels, a simple press of a button is now enough to start the spinning. Rollers have also evolved, becoming 5 or more in number instead of the original 3 rollers. Here is a brief history of this historical evolution:

1891 – Sitmann and Pitt invent the first gambling machine based on the principle of leverage.

1895 – The Liberty Bell is created Charles Fey, the first slot machine with automatic payment and 3 reels. By then, the biggest payout from this machine was ten nickels.

1907 – After slot machines were banned in 1902, a new machine was launched by a man named Herbert Mills. This is when the first fruit symbols appear on the reels. Instead of coins, the rewards come in the form of fruit candies, hence its nickname.

1963 – The first electromechanical machine is introduced by Bally. It was called Money Honey and incorporates electronic reels, but retains the famous lever. It also allows you to automatically pay up to 500 coins. After some time, having gained popularity, the lever is removed from the machine and replaced with a button.

1976 – The very first video slot machine is invented. It is created in California by a Las Vegas company called Fortune Coins. The original machine is equipped with a Sony TV to display videos on the machine and is shown for the first time at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. Shortly after, the machine becomes a great success and is installed in almost all the hotels present on the Las Vegas strip.

1994 – A year that marks a turning point with the appearance of the very first online casino introducing video slot machines. Huge success in the gaming industry, it is played by millions of people around the world without the need to physically go to a casino.

2012 – A study in England concluded that Britich people spend about £5 billion on slot machines, both online and in brick and mortar casinos. Can you imagine how much money is bet on slot machine in the world today?

3D Slots

A few years ago, a whole new generation of 3D video slot machines hit the market. Available online and in land-based casinos, they do not require special glasses to be able to enjoy them. That's why designers try to make symbols and characters as vivid as possible. The graphics of these slot machines look so real that it sometimes feels like they are staring you in the face. They are quite similar to video slots except for their significantly higher quality.

As attractive as ever, these state-of-the-art machines are proof that the slot industry continues to progress and grow every day. No one can predict what innovations will come to renew this more than century-old invention. But what is amazing is how such a simple machine has become so important in the entertainment industry!


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