The Birth of Modern Entertainment: The Origin of Slot Machines

From the way we obtain information, how we track our diet and maintain our health, to the way we relieve stress and how we meet people and find job vacancies- there is no doubt that technology has revolutionised how we live. Only a mere 20 years ago, the vast majority of society didn’t even own a mobile phone and relied instead on public phones whenever they needed to make a call.

Nowadays, the way we live our lives is drastically different, especially when it comes to how we spend our spare time. Gone are the days when reading books and going on long walks in the park were commonplace, people now prefer to watch television programmes and play mobile games.

One of those hobbies however, has remained the same since the 1890’s, and that is playing on slot machines, or their modernised counterparts, online slot games. If you’re curious how slot machines came to be, and how they were like before we came to know it as a staple game in casinos, read on and you’ll soon find out.

What Exactly Are Slot Machines?

Slot machines are known by many different names all across the world, including fruit machine by the British, in reference to the fruit symbols commonly displayed on the reels, puggy by the Scottish, and one-armed bandit, which refers to the old-fashioned lever by the machine that is necessary to operate it.

Back in the day, the term ‘slot machine’ was used to describe vending machines, but nowadays, slot machines are mainly representative of a type of casino game.

Typically, a slot machine comprises of a display with three or more reels of symbols, and to have a spin on the reels, players would need to pay and press on a button or pull on a lever. As slot machines became increasingly popular, special features and bonus rewards were incorporated into gameplay to further captivate and excite players.

Over the years, slot machines have evolved and were digitalised, becoming the modern-day equivalent that we all know and love.

Invention of the Slot Machine

Devices that encouraged betting were not unheard of before the invention of the first slot machine. In the 1800’s, there were machines that, once a coin was inserted, made to horses race against each other.

These devices were often found in bars or saloons, which would attract patrons to place wagers against each other. The first true slot machine was invented in 1891 by Sitman and Pitt in New York City, and it had five reels, featuring 50 card values. Much like modern slot machines, players would have to insert a coin and spin the reels, and in the case that they get a good hand, they will be given a reward by the proprietor. The card hands and their respective rewards were not standardised, and would differ from pub to pub. For instance, proprietors may give cigars to players who get a royal flush or a drink to those with a straight flush.

There were a few problems with the slot machine however, the chief of which was there wasn’t a way for the machine to dispense rewards automatically to winners as there were too many possible winning combinations.

To solve this, Charles Fey of San Francisco innovated a slot machine that utilised a simpler systeminstead of having five reels and card faces, his slot machine had three reels and traditional card suit symbols, horseshoes and a Liberty Bell. When players hit certain combinations, the machine would automatically dispense the appropriate reward. His slot machine was named Liberty Bell, after the bell symbol in the reels, which has the highest payout when a match of three are aligned.

Liberty Bell became so popular that Fey was able to quit his job just to accommodate the increased demand for his slot machines. His competition quickly adapted their slots to be similar to Fey’s version, and it wasn’t long before states started to restrict or outright ban the usage of slot machines.

Slot Machines in the 1900’s

By 1910, most forms of gambling have been outlawed in a lot of the U.S. states, including Fey’s own hometown. This ties in with the alcohol prohibition in the same era, both of which proved to be difficult to enforce.

Despite the laws, Fey and his competitors were still not out of business- far from it. Exploiting plotholes in the law, Fey and other slot machine manufacturers altered their machines to stop collecting coins and dispensing winnings. Instead, patrons would have to buy spins and collect their subsequent rewards at the counter, which could be items such as cigars or a drink.

It was also in the 1900’s when the iconic symbols of fruit on the reels of a slot machine was first used. As part of the ongoing effort to avoid legal repercussions, the Industry Novelty Company manufactured machines that they called ‘chewing gum dispensers’, some of which actually did dispense packs of gum. The fruit symbols were used as a way to show which flavour gum that the player has won, the most popular of which are cherries, which has become a signature symbol for slots from then until today.

Other slot manufacturers noticed this, and copied the idea for their own machines, and it is due to this incident that courts at the time often mistrusted cases regarding gum vending machines.

Despite the ban and attempts to restrict its sale and distribution, slot machines still remained popular and in the 1930’s, the prohibition was repealed. Some states began to allow low-stakes gambling, with Nevada being the first of other states to allow casinos to operate legally

Modern-Day Slot Machines

By the early 2000’s, slot machines were immensely popular- and not just in the United States, but all over the world. From then till today, gambling laws have become more lax in comparison to the 1900’s, although there are still a number of countries that restrict gambling in some way or another.

As for the countries that legalise gambling, the industry has the potential to bring in a steady stream of income and tourists. Today, the most famous gambling spots in the world would be the Vegas Strip of Nevada in the US, and Macau, China, the only place where it’s legal to gamble in China.

Slot machines, on the other hand, have come a long way from being a big clunky device that needed assistance to pay out rewards where they’re due. These addictive games have since been digitalised by modern technology- among the chief differences are the intricate graphics, extensive bonuses, special features, and more interactive components.

Another sign of the turn of era is that slots no longer exist only in physical form- with technology at the forefront of this decade, players don’t even need to travel to the nearest casinos for a spin of reels, and can now try their luck on online slot games from anywhere they want, any time they want to.

Online gaming is quickly becoming more popular by day, and as such laws regulating online casinos and certified licensing bodies have stepped in to help ensure that both casinos and players stay within their legal limits. Most casinos offer online slots as they tend to be extremely popular among users.

Much like their physical counterparts, online slots share similar traits, namely a button or a lever for players to click on to spin the reels, different types of special features and bonus rewards, and exquisite graphics to fully immerse the player into the gameplay.

In the near future, online slots will be converted from merely being a game we play on our devices to a game we can experience in Virtual Reality (VR). Already, casinos are beginning to invest in creating virtual games and casinos – it’s only a matter of time before VR casinos become the new norm, giving players the chance to choose between three ways to experience gambling.

As a whole, the history of slot machines is long and illustrious, with creative innovations at every corner and constant legality issues plaguing it even to this very day. Regardless of the era, slot machines have remained popular throughout the ages, and it’s unlikely that it would be forgotten any time soon.

You may not have lived through the invention of slot machines, but perhaps you would recognise these nostalgic and occasionally old-fashioned aspects that came with being a gambler back in the day . Otherwise, you can also read more about the industry at Casino Sans Telechargement.