The History Of Slots

The history of slots dates back quite a while. Throughout the years, they have evolved, utilising new technologies, and now you can play them anytime and anywhere. 

Slot Machines

The slot machine as we know it was invented over 120 years ago in Brooklyn, New York City. After, local inventors Sittman and Pitt created the gambling machine that would precursor the thriving gambling industry we know today. 

The year was 1891, and the departure of the civil war had brought a new unity and prosperity to the United States. As a result, New York City was booming, and there was more time for leisure, entertainment, and gambling.

New York slots 1891

Sittman and Pitt’s 1891 slot invention was fixed with 50 card faces and based on the popular casino game of poker that had been ingrained in the US psyche for many years already. 

Over on the west coast, a man named Charles Fey was creating a much simpler model that would use many of the symbols that would go on to become the iconic symbols we know today.

Here’s a handy timeline that will enlighten you on the history of the slot machines.

1891 – New Beginnings

First of its kind, Sittman and Pitt slot machines offered a completely novel autonomous gambling experience. In the late 19th century, gambling existed as slow-paced card games or betting on the frivolities of life. 

Sittman and Pitt’s slot machines provided an entry point for mass-production, quick and easy gaming methods for people from all walks of life.

This famous model had five drums, which could be the first appearance of what we now call a reel. These slots were available in most bars and cost a nickel to play. Of course, gaming systems now have algorithms to determine the win ratios of our players, but in those days, it was a lot different. 

Pubs or saloons would remove cards like the 10 of spades or the jack of hearts to lower the odds of players achieving a royal flush or a whole house.

These games were revolutionary, but they weren’t ahead of their time. For example, the gaming machine did not have a payout expository. Moreover, the bar received all winnings.

1887 – 1895 – Charles Augustus Fey

An alternative history tells us that Charles Augustus Fey is the true inventor of the slot. What the ingenious Fey brought to the table was an automatic payout method.

Slot players no longer needed to make the arduous journey to the bar to receive their winnings and could now scoop their nickels and dimes from the tray below. 

To make space for this payout technology, Fey reduced the complexity of the machines and lowered the game face to three spinning reels setting with five unique symbols;

  • Hearts
  • Diamonds
  • Spades
  • Horseshoes
  • And the famous Liberty Bell.

It’s this liberty bell that would go on to become the famous bell symbol that is associated with slot gaming everywhere. For whatever reason, Charles decided not to patent his invention and thus, the slot spread, with many inventors adding their spins.

Charles Fey Liberty Bell Slots Machine

1902 – 1908

In 1902, the United States introduced harsh gambling laws prohibiting cash prizes from being rewarded for playing slots. Nevertheless, the Bell continued to boom out of factories across the states, albeit with a slight design change. 

The Bell now had fruit symbols instead of playing cards with the prizes in flavoured fruity sweets. At this point, the Bell’s appeal began to exponentially grow and find its way out of bars and into a domestic family orientated establishments such as salons, bowling alleys, shops, and tobacconists.

The turn of the century brought many things; revolt, innovation, and frontiers, to name a few. What it also brought was the BAR symbol. The BAR symbol we recognise today was the logo of the Bell-Fruit Company. 

The same company stocked the Bell with the delicious fruit sweets contained inside the slot machine.

Bell Fruit symbol slotBall Fruit Bar symbols

Electromechanical Slot Machine

Many years passed with little innovation in the slots market. The first fully electromechanical slot machine was invented in 1963. The Money Honey machine, developed by Bally, had a bottomless hopper and automatically paid out up to 500 coins without assistance.

Until 1964 the game was heavily based on the mechanics inside of the machine. It was all metal coils and nuts and bolts. 

The lever on the side gave players the impression that they were controlling the machine, and there was a certain level of skill involved in winning. Thus, coining the name, the ‘one armed bandit’.

Bally Money Honey slots machine

1976 – 1978

A decade had passed, and few developments had been made. Instead, Concorde was flying the skies while over in the states Steve Jobs had founded a small and unassuming company called Apple Computers. 

The gambling and slots world was still reeling from the electromechanical slot game’s invention.

A small gaming development company based out of California named Fortune Coin developed something new, fresh, and immersive. The video slot was born. 

It wasn’t until 1978 that the Nevada State Gaming Commission approved the video slot machines, and with this, the Las Vegas Strip became a digital slot playing paradise.

History of slot machines and slots

Fortune Coin video slots machine

1996 and Beyond

1996 was a year of change – cool Britannia was in full swing, and so were the gambling industries. The next reinvention of the modern slot machine came from WMS industries who were the purveyors of the first slot to include a second bonus screen.

Around this time, the casino slots business exponentially boomed – along with the rest of the economy.

WMS Video slots machine

The Fruit Machine

Shortly after slot machines reached the UK, they used different symbols from the usual. The reel symbols included fruits, such as cherries, lemons, bananas, and more. Because of these fruity symbols, they were called the fruit machine.

Fruity (as it was called) caught on quickly and soon, every corner in every pub a fruit machine spinning the reels.

The Birth of the Online Slot

Apart from Oasis, the Gulf War, White House sexual conspiracies, the fall of the USSR and many other simple things, the 90s is known for the birth and sudden surge of the internet. 

The World Wide Web. This internet boom changed everything. Commerce, trade and entertainment would never be the same again. The book needed to be rewritten. 

One market, gambling, enjoyed a sudden rise after benefitting from an adjustment period that saw the invention of the online slots world we imagine today.

One advantage of the online slots world is that it allowed the introduction of the multi-faceted progressive jackpot allowing casinos to share jackpots across a range of casino sites. 

Entering 2017, the figures and profits surrounding online slots get larger.  

Looking at how far we have come, we can only look forward to what the future holds.

If you're interested in playing slots and taking the fruity machines for a spin, check our collection of online slots


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