The first slot machine emerged in Brooklyn, New York in 1891, when the Sittman and Pitt Company developed a slot machine based on poker.

Slot machine history

There were fifty card symbols divided among five reels, and by inserting a nickel, players could pull the handle and spin the reels.

It was like playing a hand of poker on a slot machine. If the symbols lined up on the 5 reels in a winning poker hand, the lucky player could claim a prize according to the value of the winning combination.

Because the Sittman and Pitt Company slot machine was not designed to award winnings directly, the winning player had to claim their prize from the establishment where the slot machine operated.

The prizes were not typically in the form of cash, but in the form of:

  • A drink from the bar
  • A pack of cigarettes
  • A pack of gum

It didn't take long before almost every bar had at least one of these early slot machines located inside. The establishment where each slot machine was located, could increase the house odds by removing the 10 of Spades and the J of Hearts.
They were also able to change the order of the reels from left to right.

Liberty Bell Slot Machine

It wasn't until 1895, that an immigrant from Germany named Charles Fey developed a slot machine named Liberty Bell, which consisted of three reels and twenty symbols. The featured symbols were bells, stars, horseshoes, and the diamonds, spades, clubs, and hearts card symbols.

The Liberty Bell slot machine accepted nickels to play, and the payouts were determined by the symbols appearing on the reels. Two horseshoes paid out two coins (nickels), and three bell symbols paid out twenty coins (nickels).
Unlike the Sittman and Pitt Company slot machine, the Liberty Bell slot machine paid players instantly for their wins.

Fey capitalized on the popularity of his creation by refusing to sell manufactoring and distribution rights to the large number of offers being made by gambling companies. Instead, he leased the slot machines out to gambling venues for a 50% cut of the profits.

Mills Liberty Bell and Operator Bell Slot Machines

Fey partnered with the Mills Novelty Company in 1907, and using Liberty Bell as the prototype, the company developed their own version, naming it Mills Liberty Bell.

The Mills Liberty Bell slot machine reels consisted of the King, Queen, and Jack high value card symbols. This slot machine also had a bell that was activated to ring every time a player would win.

The Mills Novelty Company designed a sleeker version of the Mills Liberty Bell, renaming it Operator Bell. The design changes included the addition of a gooseneck coin slot, and fruit symbols on the reels. The popularity of the Operator Bell slot machine spread like wildfire, resulting in the production and distribution of over 30,000 more Operator Bell slot machines.

Changes in the 1930s

Changes were made in the design of the Mills Novelty Company's Operator Bell slot machine during the 1930s, which revolutionized the gambling industry and put the slot machine in the forefront.

The double jackpot was introduced, giving players the chance to win the jackpot two times successively.


The Mills Novelty Company also designed a more visually appealing cabinet for the slot machine exterior, and the brightly colored cabinets were given extravagant themes to give players the impression of prestige and power.

Rising Popularity in the 1940s

Casinos began to place the slot machines in locations targeting the women who accompanied the men heavily involved in high roller gambling.

Slot machines served as an entertaining distraction for these women, and it wasn't long until revenue from these slot machines rose higher than all the other gaming revenues combined.

Electro-Mechanical Slot Machines

Towards the last part of the 1950s, slot manufacturers began developing electro-mechanical slot machines. The introduction of huge five-horse powered slot machines with eight reels and twenty symbols like Big Bertha and Super Big Bertha peaked the popularity of the slot machine.

These slot machines had an average payout rate of 80% return to player. The appeal of slot machines like Big Bertha was their ability to accept larger coin denominations, which increased the amount of the payouts, as well as the casino's profits. The odds of winning a jackpot from a Big Bertha slot machine were one in 25 billion.

Bally Slot Machines

The first slot machine to veer from the original design of Fey's Liberty Bell was an electro-mechanical slot machine introduced by Bally Manufacturing in 1964, called Money Honey.

This time it wasn't the exterior, but the interior of the slot machine that replaced all the springs and levers with electrical components, which provided exciting sounds and flashing lights to enhance the player's excitement level.

In the mid 1970s, Bally released the Dollar slot machine, and this is when casinos started to rearrange the casino floor to accommodate prominent placement of the slot machines.

Slot machines were placed in carousels and in other places to gear the floor traffic to the slot machines with attractive jackpots.

Computerized Slot Machines

Computerized slot machines were introduced in the beginning of the 1980s, when a new company in the gambling industry called Sircoma developed a video poker slot machine.

The virtual aspect of the video slot machines didn't win player's approval immediately, because they felt uncomfortable playing a game where they could not see the reels spinning. When the machine's success became more obvious, these doubts soon disappeared.

The computerized slot machines provided players with more options, such as accepting dollar bills. This added convenience to the mix because now players weren't required to exchange dollar bills for coins to play the slots.

The casino profits further increased because now that players were spending less time waiting in line for change, and more time feeding dollar bills into the slot machines to play longer.

The development of slot machines evolved again into multi-selection slot machines where players could choose from a selection of different games on the same machine.

These comprehensive slot machines meant that players no longer felt the need to wander around the casino floor in search of different games to play. Bonus features were another addition, allowing players the opportunity of winning more money than the staggering amounts in jackpot offerings already presented.

Modern Slot Machines

Slot machines contribute an average of 30% to the profits of the casino. When players win big, the flashing lights and brightly colored exteriors create a dynamic atmosphere of excitement and near hysteria.
Slot machines that generate wins more often are placed in highly visible locations on the casino floor to attract crowds.

Random Number Generators

Slot machines today use random number generators, which are pre-programmed algorithms that correspond to the symbol patterns on the reels.

Most slot machines pay winnings proportional to the number of coins bet per spin. Some will not even produce a payout if only one coin is played.

You are always best to play the maximum number of coins to increase your chances of winning, especially while playing on a progressive jackpot slot machine.

Cashless Zone Casino Floors

More and more slot machines are no longer accepting coins and dollar bills, making the casino floor a cashless zone.

Wins on these types of machines are usually paid out with the payout amount printed on a slip of receipt paper dispensed by the slot machine when a player cashes out of the machine. The player is then required to go to a cashier to exchange the printed payout for cash or casino chips.

Online Slot Machines

Online slot machines are even more popular in online casinos than the slots are in land-based casinos. Online gambling has taken the industry by storm. Games previously restricted to land-based casinos are now widely available online to anyone over the age of 21, and in some jurisdictions to anyone over the age of 18.

Online game and software providers are developing a wide range of slot machines for hundreds of online casinos throughout the world. There are slot machines offering progressive jackpots, and multi-payline video slots on hundreds of casino sites.

Slot machines offer very attractive bonus features that make them the highlight of any online casino experience. Players becoming instant multi-millionaires are not uncommon. There are hundreds of online casinos who have dedicated their games exclusively to slot machines.

Online slot machines give you a chance to forego the land-based casino to play from the comfortable surroundings of home.

Last update: 30-09-2019
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