The Origin of Slot Machines

The first modern mechanical gambling devices appeared by the end of the 1800’s. As these games operated by inserting a coin into a slot, these machines were referred to as slot machines.

During the last part of the 19th century, the United States was washed over by a Poker craze. As a result, quick inventors tried to produce automatic devices which simulated the experience of gambling. The Sittman and Pitt Company developed a gaming machine that was based on Poker. The machine did not give out any coins, however the operator of the machine gave the winners their “payouts”, in the form of merchandise or drinks from the venue the machine was placed in.

While the Sittman and Pitt devices served as a prelude to modern slot machines, the machines were used as “trade stimulators”. Therefore, such machines were often found in saloons or tobacco shops. When a player won, he would win merchandise, such as a cigar or drink. While popular in New York, these machines were incredibly popular in San Francisco, where Poker was gaining ground.

Charles Fey eventually developed a machine that was card based, which included an automatic payout feature. Since Fey was unable to produce a machine with five reels, he settled on a design which incorporated three reels instead. The machine rang a bell when a winning spin was achieved and that’s why the machine was named “Card Bell” by Fey.

Fey’s “Card Bell” machine was eventually altered to include card pictures and icons. It even received a new name – “Liberty Bell”. The “Liberty” paid out when three cracked liberty bells were in line at the center of the reel window. The machine also had lesser payouts for some other icon combinations. San Francisco quickly became the slot machine capital of America!
By 1908, San Francisco got nearly $200,000 per year in slot machine taxes.

The next leap in slot technology occurred in 1964, when electromechanical slots hit the market. These slot machines used electronic motors, coin hoppers and dispensers to minimize the need for slot operators. Slot machines also boasted lights, sounds and moving objects.

During the 1970s the first video slots were introduced, but slot players were reluctant to trust these machines until the late 1970s, when video Poker machines appeared in massive amounts all over. The latest revolution in slot machine technology is server-based slot machines. Since the invention of the slot machine back in the late 1800s, the machine always determined win and loss by itself. With server-based slots, there is a central determination component which determines winning and losing, and the device that is actually in front of the player is simply an input and display device.

Slot Machines have an important contribution to the growth of an industry that contributes jobs, economic development and substantial tax dollars to gaming states and communities. From the early simple slot machines to the more advanced and sophisticated machines of today, slot machines continue to excite players all around, providing each with a thrill like no other.