A Brief History of the Slot Machine

We all love the cutting edge, high definition video slots like the ones at BitStarz, but where did the original ‘nickel-in-the-slot’ machines come from? We take a quick look at the history of these infamous devices and see how they have evolved over the decades.

The First Creations

The first coin-operated gambling machine was invented in Brooklyn, New York in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt and was based on poker, with an arm on the side of the machine used to turn the tumblers and reveal the cards. The machines proved so popular that soon many bars in the city had them. These first machines couldn’t pay out directly, so beer, cigars, or other drinks were awarded as prizes, dependent upon what the bar in question wanted to offer.

An upgrade of this model came at the turn of the century when Charles Fey created a machine with a much simpler automatic mechanism allowing payouts, featuring three spinning reels containing a total of five symbols: horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts, and a Liberty Bell. The ‘Liberty Bell’ became so ubiquitous that it led to the first legal challenges to curtail their presence, ending up being banned in the creator’s home state.


The Bandit Loses his Arm

The general design of slots stayed the same until 1963 when Bally created the first fully electromechanical slot – Money Honey – and as the technology developed, the arm of the ‘one-armed bandit’ was soon eradicated. The first true video slot machine came in 1976, using a 19-inch Sony Trinitron screen, and went on trial in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. Following some alterations to make it ‘cheat-proof’, it was approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission and video slots took off, becoming immensely popular on the Las Vegas Strip.

Slots Move Online

The creation of a “second screen” bonus round in 1996 on the slot ‘Reel ‘Em In’ was the last major breakthrough in physical video slots before the genre moved online as the internet began to blossom. Microgaming released the first true online video slot in 1994, and in 1998 they launched the first progressive jackpot slot.

Slots now form an integral part of most online casinos, with a huge variety of themes, designs, layouts, and payouts, having made millionaires out of lucky winners year after year. With the technology, graphics, and animation improving all the time, the future looks as bright for slots now as it did when they first showed up over 100 years ago.