How slot machines went from being a gimmick in the back of a New York bar to a casino essential
It is hard to imagine a casino these days without thinking of slot machines, but they are actually one of the newest additions to the world of casinos. Decks of cards have been around for 1000+ years, Roulette was invented in the 17th century, and dice have been around since early man learned to use tools.
Slot machines, on the other hand, weren’t invented until the turn of the 20th century. Today, we are going to talk you through the evolution of slot machines.
The beginning – vouchers
The first slot machine was invented in 1891 by a company in New York. It was designed as a way to help boost the profits of a local bar.
This version of the slot machine had 5 drums, each had 10 cards on them. 2 cards were removed to make flushes nearly impossible to get. The rules for the original slot machine were based on Poker and the machine used a real deck of cards.
There was no payout slot in these original slot machines. Instead, the bar kept the money. The rewards from this machine were free drinks and meals, rather than money.
Eventually, it was decided that slot machines would pay out small cash prizes. When the winner got the right combination of cards, the pub would pay them money out of the till. Most of the money was spent that evening in the pub, so landlords were more than happy to install these machines.
Things begin to change – sweets
A rival company, the Liberty Bell company, developed a slot machine that had 3 drums with a mixture of 5 symbols on them – hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes, and a liberty bell. If players matched up the right set of numbers then they would win a cash prize.
In 1902, the USA banned slot machines that had out cash prizes. So, Liberty Bell teamed up with a sweets company and made them specialized shot machines that people could try and win sweets from.
These machines were known as fruit machines (you may know some people who still call slot machines this name). It was during this project that the fruit symbols on the slot machines first appeared. If you could match up a line of fruits then you won a sweet in that flavor.
A new age – Electric slot machine
The first fully electric slot machine was called Money Honey and was released in 1974. It was designed to look like the old mechanical slot machines so that users could still play with them. It could pay out up to 500 coins in one go. The Money Honey was so popular that most slot machine manufacturers moved over to electromagnetic systems as soon as they could.
In the mid 1970s, the first video slot machine was installed in a casino. These machines had an LED screen instead of a physical drum. The machines were heavily tested to make sure they couldn’t be backed or manipulated before they were moved into casinos.
By the late 1900s, slot machines were responsible for 70% of the casino industry’s earnings. It was reported that most casinos were giving up over 70% of their floor space to the machines.
Now – online casinos and slot machines
In the late 1990s, just as slot machines were taking over physical casinos, we saw the dawn of the online casino age. The first online casino was launched in 1994, in a year there were 20 online casinos, in 5 years there were 200, and now, nearly 30 years later the industry is worth $56 billion.
The gentlemen who invented the first slot machine would have no trouble recognizing online slots as an evolution of their own invention. Online slot machines still offer users the chance to pretend to pull a lever, the slots still roll like they were on a drum and many online casinos still choose to use some of the original slot machine symbols.
There are now thousands of different types of online slot machines and you can still find physical slot machines in the backs of many bars around the world.