If you have ever been to a casino, you’ll know that a large portion of the floor is dedicated to slot machines. The games are popular amongst all gamblers and come in an eclectic range of variations. It wasn’t always this way, however.

The first gaming machine was created in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt, a New York company. The machine was bulky, loud, and so heavy it took several men to move it. It consisted of five drums and a total of 50 playing cards.

One nickel let you have one play – a relatively high price at that time. The machines were found in bars and could be won when a poker hand was made. To increase the house edge, the ten of spades and jack of hearts were removed.

The odds of getting a royal flush were reduced by half. There was also no direct payout, so winners had to go to the bar counter to receive their prize of a free drink, cigars, cigarettes, or sweets.

The First Slot Machine is Born

While this was going on, sometime between 1887 and 1895 Charles Augustus Fey launched the very first slot machine.

It’s thought that 1895 is a more accurate date and that Fey was inspired by Sittman and Pitt’s machine. Fey’s machine included an automatic payout which was achieved by replacing the drums with three reels. The cards were replaced with five symbols: a diamond, spade, heart, horseshoe, and a liberty bell.

The highest payout was awarded to a player who landed on three bells, hence the machine’s name The Liberty Bell. It was an instant success, but one that was copied by many due to Fey failing to patent his creation.

In 1902, the Liberty Bell and other gaming machines were outlawed. Machines were still manufactured, but the original symbols were replaced with fruit.

Since cash could no longer be paid as a prize, chewing gum and sweets that matched the flavour of the fruit were awarded to winners.

In 1907, Herbert Mills created a knock-off version called the Operator Bell and, one year later, the machine was found throughout its home town of Chicago and other cities. For the next few decades, the mechanical machines grew in popularity.

From Cogs to Video Screens

People were drawn into the manual operation which required a player to pull down on a lever to set the reels in motion (that’s how they got the name “one-armed bandit”) but in 1964, big changes occurred.

The first electro-mechanical slot was introduced and had an automatic payout that maxed out at 500 coins making it a hugely popular game.

In 1976, the first video slot was created by Fortune Coin. The display was a modified Sony TV and could be found in the Hilton of Las Vegas.

After adding cheat proofing systems, the Nevada State Gaming Commission approved it for commercial use. Fortune Coin was acquired by IGT in 1978.

From then onward, slots have evolved into multi-reeled games with bonus rounds and side games. Online slots took hold in 1996 and have not slowed down since!