If you’ve ever been in a casino online or on-land, you’re likely to have come into contact with a slot machine. Flashing lights, loud music and spinning reels glittering with the promise of unlimited riches, thousands of punters daily spin to win.
These days you can play alongside Batman and Catwoman, Egyptian pharaohs, Indiana Jones, aliens and many more crazy characters and themes. You even have the chance to snag million pound jackpots, with around 15 online slots having paid out jackpots in the millions – yes you really can become a millionaire playing an online slot!
But take a journey back in time to where it all began and things were a lot less glitzy. There were no monetary prizes, you just played for drinks and cigars.
Developed in 1891 by a New York based company Sittman and Pitt, one of the first slot machines had five drums and a total of 50 playing cards. The ten of spades and the jack of hearts had been removed to reduce the odds of getting a royal flush by half. Found in many bars, you had to pull the lever to spin the drums. If you had a win, there was no direct payout mechanism in the machine and you collected payment from the bar in the form of drinks and cigars.
Although he never patented his design, Charles Augustus Fey is said to be the inventor of the first slot machine to allow automatic payouts. The exact date of creation is up for debate but is thought to of happened around 1887-1895. His machine had just five drums with three reels and the playing cards had just five symbols – hearts, spades, diamonds, horseshoes and a liberty bell. Scoring a line of three bells got you the highest payout and gave the machine its name – the Liberty bell.
As 1902 dawned, slot machines were banned in many states in America but this did not stop Fey or any of the other slot machine manufacturers. To get around the ban, the playing card symbols were replaced with pictures of fruit and items such as chewing gum. Payouts of actual cash were replaced with gum, thus bringing about the widely known name ‘fruit machine’ we know today.
Another well-known term for the slot machine is the ‘one arm bandit’. This refers to the lever that is pulled on the side, which set the reels in motion. Being an ingenious mechanism, giving the player the feeling he was in total control, these styles of machine can be seen across many casinos still today. As technology developed, 1964 brought about the first electromechanical slot released by Bally called ‘cash Honey’. Although the reels were operated electrically, the familiar lever still gave the player control to spin the reels. Also, this was the first machine with a bottomless hopper, which means it could make an automatic payout of up to 500 coins.
Fortune Coin were first in the race to build and manufacture the first true video slot in 1967. Using a modified 19 inch Sony TV for the display, it first made an appearance in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. 1996 brought on the release of ‘’Reel Em’’ by WMS Industries Inc. This was the first video slot to feature a second screen bonus round, which when triggered it opened up a completely new screen. Players of the game could also experience for the first time, winning extra cash during the bonus rounds.
As the internet age started to rear its head around the mid-90s, the first online casinos were developed. Blackjack and roulette were the first to grace the screens, shortly followed by online slot machines. To start with, the online slots looked exactly the same as the types of slots you found in land based casinos, with the same symbols and numbers of reels. As computer programming and creative genius improved, games started to become way more imaginative and innovative and also surpassed the popularity of other casino games.
The first online jackpot slot was Cash Splash from Microgaming, which only offered a moderate jackpot. As time has moved on, jackpots have increased along with the excitement factor. The company Mega Moolah has made many millionaires and currently holds the title for the largest payout from an online slot – an amazing 17.9 million euros! If you fancy your chances at online slot machine gaming, try out the many thrilling games.