When you play slots for a certain amount of time, you know pretty much all the information regarding how do they work, or how do you win, including some of the best tips on how to beat the casino. However, when you know all these answers, at some point you start digging a bit deeper and sooner than you know it, you find yourself wondering how and when were slot machines developed? Well, we thought you might want to know that as well, so we’ve provided some insight in the history of slot machines.

The History Of Slot Machines

Back in 1887 in San Francisco, California, a man named Charles Augustus Fey invented the first slot machine. Many, however, believe that the final version of Fey’s slot machine was completed in 1895. The original machine was of course a much simpler mechanism consisted of three spinning reels and a total of five symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and a bell (Liberty Bell), from which this machine took its name. By replacing ten cards with five symbols with three reels instead of five drums, the complexity of reading a winning result was significantly reduced, allowing Fey to develop an effective mechanism of automatic payment.

In order to win at these machines and get the biggest payment, you would have needed three bells in a row. Liberty Bell was a huge success and has spurred a thriving industry of mass production of gaming machines. As Fey did not apply for a patent for his design, it was copied by many slot machine manufacturers. For example, in 1907, manufacturer Herbert Mills from Chicago produced a slot machine called Operator Bell. By 1908 many “Bell” machines were installed in most cigar stores, saloon, bowling, brothels and barber shops.

Charles Fey’s original Liberty Bell machine can still be seen at the Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant in Nevada.

Sitman and Pitt

In 1891, Sitman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York developed a gambling machine which will later be perceived as a precursor to the modern slot machine. It contained five drums holding a total of 50 card faces and was based on poker. This machine gained huge popularity and soon many bars in the city had one or more of these. The mechanism was based on pulling the lever which turned the drums and the cards they held, while the player hoped a good poker hand. There was no direct payment mechanism, so a pair of kings might get the player a free beer, whereas a Royal Flush rewarded cigars or drinks. The awards were entirely depended on the offers in each local installation.

Other early machines, such as trade stimulator, were distributing profits in the form of chewing gum with fruit flavours, hence today’s popular cherry and melon symbols. The symbol BAR, most common and widespread on slots came from the company logo Bell-Gum Fruit. This type of payment was a commonly used technique to avoid laws against gambling in the States.

The Electromechanical Slot Machine

For many more years, slot machines remained purely mechanical because they gave players the feeling that they could control the game and the outcome. It is because of the manually-operated lever that the slang expression “one armed bandits” came into existence.

In 1964, the first fully electromechanical slot called Money Honey was released by Bally. The reels were operated entirely electrically, yet the game was still started by pulling the lever. This was the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper, enabling it to make an automatic payout of up to 500 coins, without the help of an attendant.

The game was highly popular which led to the increasing prevalence of new electronic format and the side lever soon became vestigial.

The Video Slots

The first video slot was developed in 1976 by N. Cerracchio, R. Greene, W. Beckman, J. Reukes, and L. Black in the company Fortune Coin Co., Las Vegas, NV. It consisted of a modified 19-inch colour screen of the Sony boards and software for all machine functions, incorporated in a cabin – slot. The first video slot machine was placed at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas and after some security modifications regarding possible cheating, it got approval from the state of Nevada.

The first electronic slot machines with two screens were created in 1994 in Australia and 1996 in America. In this type of machine, the display on the screen was changing, giving the player a different environment, a.k.a. a different bonus game. Additional payouts could be won during this bonus round. During this time, slots became increasingly popular at casinos. In fact, they were responsible for around 70% of a casino’s income, and also took up 70% of the available floor space.

The Rise of Online Slots

The boom of the internet in the mid 90’s supported the development of the first online casinos. At the start, only the classic casino games, such as roulette and blackjack were available, but slots were also added not much later. Despite being added last, slots quickly became more popular than traditional casino games, and as such, they soon provided the bulk of the online casinos’ game selection.

In the beginning, the style of the games remained similar to land based slot machines, with the same number of reels and the same type of symbols. However, soon enough there were many new types of games emerging, with exciting themes and creative layout and structure. Nowadays, we get to enjoy online slots with more than five reels and unconventional layouts, choose from a wide variety of themes and spin endless different symbols, along with innovative and imaginative bonus rounds and special game features.

Let’s not forget about jackpot slots. These have reached new heights since they were first made available online. The first online jackpot slot was Cash Splash, from Microgaming, which provided only moderately high payouts. Since then, there has been a new wave of exciting jackpot games, with some outstanding prizes on offer. Take Mega Moolah for example. Not only does it regularly pay out jackpots in the millions, it also holds the world record for the largest payout from an online slot – a staggering 17.9 million Euros. Another game worthy of mention is NetEnt’s Mega Fortune, which has also made payouts in excess of 17 million Euros.


We are grateful to live in times with such big opportunities, at least when it comes to the things we like – slot machines. Let’s not take that for granted.

Now that your history folder has been updated and you know the answer to the question ‘When were slot machines developed?’, choose from the huge variety of awesome slot games and enjoy your adventure!

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