How Slot Machines Changed Over Time

How slots changed over time

3 minutes

Last Updated: August 29, 2023

Alex Zlatanovic

Slot machines have a long history dating back two centuries. Naturally, the earliest machines significantly differ from the slots we can enjoy today.

There have been many iterations and innovations since the first slot machine came out in the late 19th century. In this article, we’ll walk you through the history of slot machines to see how they evolved through the years.

The Early Days of Slot Machines

Today, you can easily access online slot games without much effort. With sites like PG offering slots of all themes and designs, you have an endless variety of games to pick from.

However, this was far from the case in the early days of slot machines. The rudimentary original was a simple machine with minimal features.

It’s widely accepted that the first variation of the modern slot machine was introduced in 1891 by a New York-based company called Sittman and Pitt. It held five drums totaling 50 cards and worked as a poker game. Players would put a nickel into the machine and pull the lever hoping for a strong hand.

Between 1887 and 1895, a Chicago-based mechanic called Charles Fey also developed an automatic mechanism containing five symbols. One of the included symbols was a Liberty Bell, after which the slot got its name.

During the next decade, the Liberty Bell became a hit all across the US. These machines could be found on every corner, from tobacco shops and salons to brothels.

However, as gambling laws across the country became stricter, the wider popularization of slots was hindered. To avoid legal repercussions, slot machine designers devised an ingenious idea. They designed machines to offer chewing gum, candy, or other sweets as prizes.

Slots Light Up Vegas

Over the 1930s and 1940s, Las Vegas quickly boomed to become the gambling capital of the US. During this period, slots were at the forefront as the most popular game among casino visitors.

While newer slots were more appealing to the eye and better designed, all machines were still purely mechanical. They operated on a spring system that the player would activate by pulling the lever. This gameplay system garnered slot machines the nickname “one-arm bandits”.

The Invention of Electromechanical Slots

Things rapidly changed in 1963, when the first electromechanical slot came out. The slot, named Money Honey, was released by Bally.

This slot revolutionized the genre, as it featured a bottomless hopper which allowed it to pay out significantly better prizes. For the first time, a slot machine could pay out 500 coins without the input of a slot machine attendant.

Although the “one-arm bandit” nickname stuck, electromechanical slots no longer needed a lever in order to operate. Players would start the machine simply by pressing a button.

In the mid-1970s, the first video slot game came out. The game was now fully electronic. The new slot machine featured a Sony display mounted on a slot machine cabinet. It used logic boards to run the slot game.

Further Advancements in the Genre

In the 1980s and 1990s, slot machine developers were feverishly competing to push out the latest and most innovative slot games. In 1996, WMS Industries set the bar higher by producing the first game with a second-screen bonus round.

This new slot allowed players to trigger a bonus by lining up specific symbols on the reels. Players could win additional payouts during the bonus rounds.

The expanding variety of slot machines cemented their place as the most popular casino games. By the end of the century, slots were responsible for over two-thirds of every casino’s revenue.

The Era Of Online Slots

Evolution of online slots

While slots dominated land-based casinos during the 1990s, a new lane of gambling was quickly gaining traction. InterCasino, the first online casino, launched in 1994. Like their land-based counterparts, online slots rapidly became the go-to choice for most online gamblers.

In their first few years, online slots looked and played similarly to machines in brick-and-mortar casinos. However, with each passing year, online slots have become more advanced and feature-rich.

Nowadays, online slots have surpassed land-based slots in terms of variety. An average online casino features hundreds, if not thousands, of titles players can explore.

Slot machines are still relatively young compared to most other traditional casino games. But, in just over a hundred years, they evolved significantly and became the leading source of entertainment for most casino goers.

While there’s no telling what future slot machines will evolve into, we can only anticipate it in excitement based on the fascinating history of these games.

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