Gambling History – Slots

The first mechanical slot machine was invented in 1895 by a San Francisco car mechanic, a Bavarian immigrant named Charles Fey. Fey’s slot machine, called the “Liberty Bell,” had three spinning reels, with diamonds, hearts, spades, and one Liberty Bell (showing a crack) painted around each reel. If the player got three bells in a row, he hit the jackpot, receiving fifty cents or ten nickels.

Fey’s machines were a huge success, and he had trouble building enough in his small shop. However, twelve years later, a Chicago manufacturer of arcade machines, began production of the “Operator Bell,” a device very similar the Fey’s Liberty Bell. The new machine had ten additional symbols on each reel and was more mobile and slightly narrower than Fey’s device.

In 1909, San Francisco prohibited slot machines. Nevada followed suit a year later. Then in 1911, California outlawed slot machines statewide. During that period, a number of politicians made a big show of being photographed destroying slot machines. However, Nevada re-introduced gambling in the 1930s, and the “one-armed bandit” became a mainstay of the Las Vegas casino.

The Age of Electronics

Early twentieth century mechanical slot machines had a big handle. A player was required to pull the handle to play the game and to get the reels to spin. However, there were many problems with such machines and it was easy to cheat. In the mid-1960s, electronic slot machines were created. Electronic slots were more secure than mechanical slot machines. Electronic slots also allowed the casinos to offer bigger prizes. Mechanical slots had a physical limitation on the number of stops on the reels. On electronic slots however, operators could make as many stops as they wanted.

The first video slot device was introduced to Las Vegas in 1975. Unfortunately, video slots were not well accepted by players because they could not see actual spinning reels. These video machines did not become popular until the 1980s, after the acceptance of International Game Technology’s popular video draw poker machine.

Nickel machines, video-based machines that permit multi-betting-lines on it, have been introduced into the United States from Australia in recent years. These have proved to be very popular.