Out of all casino games, slot machines are the most popular, accounting for around 70% of the average casino’s income in the USA. There are so many variations of slots available today that it’s possible to write an entire book on them (such as “Slot Machines: A Pictorial History of the First 100 Years of the World’s Most Popular Coin-operated Gaming Device” by Marshall Fey.)
For one reason or the other, slots have captured the interest of people worldwide today. But where did this fascination start? Let’s delve into a brief history of slot machines.
Early ideas and the Liberty Bell
In 1891, a new type of gambling machine was invented, serving as the precursor to the first modern slot machine. The device was based on poker and included five reels; when you would pull the lever, the machine’s drums would be set into motion, and it would show a random poker hand. Depending on that hand’s ranking, you would get a prize.
Since the machine was mechanical and the technology was just not on that level yet, it could not detect the wins automatically. These machines were installed in bars, and instead of paying out in coins or tickets, the payouts would be something more along the lines of a free drink or a complimentary cigar from the bar.
By 1895, a new machine had been invented based on the early idea. Instead of using five reels and poker hands, it would use three reels and five symbols with payouts based on how the symbols connected in the reels. One of those symbols was the Liberty Bell, which would give the machine its name.
Since the winning combinations were relatively simplified, the machine could detect winners automatically and pay out accordingly, thus removing the onus of payout from the establishment where the machine was installed.The Liberty Bell was extremely successful and would inspire several machines that were essentially just a variation of its mechanism.
Electronic Age with Money Honey
The first “electromechanical” slot machine was Money Honey, released by Bally in 1963. It would break the limitations of mechanical machines and usher in an era of electronic slot games that would take advantage of the latest technology available.
By 1976, slot machines had gone fully digital. These machines would be called “video slot machines” as they did not have any mechanical mechanism and instead relied on digital logic boards. Slots like “Reel ‘Em In” would further push the video slots segment with features like a second-screen bonus round in 1996.
Online casinos and international appeal
The online casino industry started with the internet boom and has kept up the pace ever since. As the world keeps getting connected, international casinos are expanding into emerging markets like India and Brazil. Slots are still as popular as ever, with many online casinos offering free spins on slots as part of their welcome bonus to attract new players.
Modern video slots are nothing like the Liberty Bell. Game studios like MicroGaming and NetEnt have been pushing new features and releasing more impressive online slots every year. Partnering with leading brands, these studios also publish many branded slots, furthering the genre’s appeal to new players.
Slots have been a part of popular culture for more than a hundred years, and as an international appetite for online casinos grows, it seems like they’re here to stay.