Slots have a fascinating history that spans from their days as massive, iron-cast machines to the highly detailed and exciting video slots of today.
Slots have evolved into a world of highly detailed graphics, entertaining video animations and exciting bonus games. That said, it’s hard to picture a time when slots were nothing more than plain, iron-cast machines. But just over a century ago, that’s exactly where slots games were. So how did they evolve from ordinary, boring machines to captivating games that are played by millions of people worldwide? Let’s answer this question by going over the fascinating history of slots.
Charles Fey – The Inventor of Slots
Those who love playing slots games today can give a big thanks to Charles Fey. Born to a poor family in Germany, Fey immigrated to France and later to the United States to improve his fortunes. While in the US, the San Francisco mechanic began to notice the automated poker machines of the day. These games featured five drums that held a total of 50 card faces, and players would pay a nickel to compete for prizes. Unfortunately, the only rewards that poker machines offered were beer vouchers and cigars because the game was too complex for its time and couldn’t make real money payouts.
In 1895, Fey sought to simplify this design by making a game with three reels and five symbols. Dubbed the “Liberty Bell,” this machine saw players make their bet and pull a lever back to spin the reels. It didn’t take long for Fey’s slot machine to draw considerable attention around the San Francisco area. Soon, most of the city’s bars entered into an agreement with Fey, whereby both parties would split the profits.
Thanks to the popularity of slot machines, Charles Fey enjoyed a very prosperous period throughout the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. This prosperity caught the attention of Herbert Mills, who owned the Mills Novelty Company. He eventually approached Fey about working together and they developed the Mills Liberty Bell machine.
The nice thing about having Mills aboard was that his company could quickly mass produce slot machines. Sure the games were just plain, cast-iron machines, but at least the Mills Novelty Company could keep up with the growing demand for slots.
Notorious Gangster brings Slots to Vegas
By the late 1940’s, the infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel was operating the Pink Flamingo Hotel, one of the world’s most lavish casinos at the time. Siegel took notice of slot machines after seeing their popularity at bars and saloons. So he began putting these games on the Pink Flamingo’s floor in hopes of keeping wives and girlfriends busy while their men played table games.
This sexist line of thinking soon became outdated as Siegel and other casino owners noticed that everybody liked slot machines. And soon, slots games could be found all throughout Las Vegas as other casinos looked to cash in on people’s fascination with spinning the reels.
Up until the 1960’s, slot machines were made entirely out of mechanical elements. However, Bally Technologies changed all of this when they developed “Money Honey” in 1963. This was the first electromechanical slots game and it could actually process big payouts without needing an attendant.
Just 13 years after slots went electromechanical, the Fortune Coin Company made another huge advancement when they created a video slots game. Players quickly found that video slots games didn’t carry the same limitations as reel slots since more paylines, betting options and winning payouts were made available. Not long after this, WSM Industries added another piece of slots history by installing a bonus round in Reel ‘Em. This bonus round featured different slots rules than the normalgame and gave players an opportunity to win extra prizes.
Online Slots become Available
With the internet becoming more available to the public in the mid-1990’s, Microgaming took advantage of this opportunity by rolling out online slots games. This gave players an opportunity to skip a casino trip and head straight for the computer. Plus online slots gave people a better opportunity to enjoy a wider gaming variety because they could travel back and forth between casinos with the click of a mouse.
Of course, it took a few years for people to truly embrace the concept of playing real money slots at an internet casino. But once players began warming up to cyber slots, jackpots increased greatly. In fact, a Finnish man once hit an online slots jackpot worth £17,861,813 in 2011. There have been plenty of other massive jackpots won at online casinos in recent years too.
The latest advancement in the slots world has been mobile casinos. Now players are able to enjoy slots games anywhere they go as long as they’ve got a smartphone or tablet. The development of mobile slots has truly created a world where slots have no bounds. And just like with what’s been seen in regular online slots, casinos are offering more and more mobile games each year.
It’s crazy to think that the 110-pound Liberty Bell machine that Charles Fey invented well over a century ago has given way to slots games that can be played through a tiny mobile device. And based on how far slots have come, it’s likely that we’re not done seeing major developments.