The humble slot machine is without a shadow of a doubt the unsung hero of the casino.
It cannot be denied that the kitschy slot machine does not have the cinematic appeal of poker, the thick tension of blackjack nor the subtle elegance of roulette. However, there is one thing that slot machines bring to the proverbial casino table more than any other game. That is the all-powerful dollar.
Indeed, it has been revealed that an astounding 70 per cent of the average US casino’s income was generated through slot machines alone! Poker may have James Bond, but the humble slot machine has George Washington and all friends decked in their greenest finery.
Even the emergence of the online casino has not shaken the slot machine’s grip on the industry. Enthusiastic gambling nations, such as the Republic of Ireland, are going crazy over themed, online slot-machines to the point where websites, such as beclover.com, have been created to keep track of all the virtual machines on offer!
But where did it all begin and just how far has the humble slot machine come?
The slot machine, as it roughly stands today, was invented by Californian Charles Fey in 1887. Whilst other inventors, namely the Brooklyn-born duo of Sittman and Pitt, had somewhat experimented with an automated casino game, it was Fey’s invention of a smooth and simplified automatic mechanism, which is still used today, that means he was the one who truly began it all.
The slot machine, as it was originally devised by Fey, had three spinning reels which contained five symbols – the now classic and iconic horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and Liberty Bell combination. The reason for this simplistic yet addictive play was that this limited number of combinations meant that the primitive mechanics could pay-out the winnings for every combination possible…if only just!
The slot machine proved an enormous and overwhelming success for Fey, who could not keep up production to meet demand, even when the device was banned in his own state! Naturally, as is always the case, this popular blueprint was copied and replicated across the industry. The first of these was in the 1907 Operator Bell, made by Chicago manufacturer Herbert Mills. Soon every cigar store, bowling alley and barber shop had a slot machine, or some variance, installed. This simple and modest machine brought gambling into areas of life that the hobby had never been before!
In 1963, manufacturer Bally released the first fully electromechanical slot machine, named appropriately as Money Honey, and in 1976 the first video slot machine landed in Nevada. The most recent, major tweak to the physical slot machine occurred in 1996, when WMS developed a two-screen, bonus round slot machine known as Real ‘Em In.
Obviously, since then, the slot machine – like all its casino contemporaries – has moved on to a less physical and more digital plane. And given its sterling history, we can only expect it to go even further in the future!
Photo courtesy of Dan4th