Updated December 2022: Slot machines have been around for so many years, that it is virtually impossible to remember how it all began. Their history started more than a century ago and these games underwent many transformations, to reach their current form. It goes without saying that they will continue to change in the future, so even the best looking slots we enjoy today will eventually lose their polish. Keep reading to learn everything about the long history and evolution of slot machines over the years.

Sittman and Pitt Build the First Slot Machine

Those who enjoy spinning the reels of modern slots should be grateful to the New York company Sittman and Pitt who created the first slot machine. Back in 1891, they came up with the idea of producing a game that had five drums and a total of 50 playing cards. That was a rudimentary slot by today’s standards, but at the time it was an amazing device. It proved to be so popular that local bars quickly adopted it and players were able to spin its reels for as little as a nickel.

This was the first one-armed bandit, as players had to pull the lever after inserting the money. Depending on whether the game was played, players would have to go to the bar and get their reward when hitting the winning combination. The slot machine wouldn’t pay winners automatically, and in most cases, they were not even awarded cash, but free drinks and food.

Charles Augustus Fey invented his first slot machine at roughly the same time and his device was actually better. What helped it stand out from the crowd was the fact that it would pay winnings automatically, without human interference. Instead of playing cards, his contraption had different symbols, such as spades, diamonds, hearts, horseshoes and the Liberty Bell. The latter was the highest paying symbol and the design got so popular that it was promptly copied by other manufacturers.

Slot Machines Get Banned in 1902

The history of slot machines also includes those dark years when the devices were banned and it all started in 1902. Because cash prizes were no longer accepted, winners would receive sweets and chewing gum, which was in complete accord with the new design of the slot machines. This is how the fruit machine era began and Herbert Mills’ Operator Bell slots became the most popular. This was also the time when the BAR symbol was introduced and its popularity transcended the years.

Over the next decades, slot machines didn’t change too much and they remained mechanical for many years. Players felt like they were in complete control of the game, even though the outcome was decided by pure chance. The design didn’t change either and because of the ban, players had to settle for the makeshift prizes and the sheer excitement of spinning the reels.

The Advent of Electromechanical and Video Slots

1964 was an important year in the history of slot machines because this is when theMoney Honey slot was produced. Bally developed this electromechanical slot whose reels were operated electrically, but the design remained the same. Manufacturers decided to keep the lever in place, just to create the illusion of playing a familiar game. This new slot had a maximum payout of 500 coins, so players could win more money by betting larger amounts.

In the next years, the lever was removed from new slots and in 1976 the first video slot was developed. Fortune Coin was the company to produce this new game that used a modified TV which acted as a display. It underwent several modifications to be accepted as a gambling instrument and it was subsequently introduced to Las Vegas casinos. Another critical year in the history of slot machines was 1996 when WMS Industries introduced a slot with a second screen bonus round.

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Why Do Online Casinos Embrace Online Slots?

Perhaps the most important moment in the history of slots was at the late of the 90s when online casinos emerged. Slots were their first choice and players were able to spin the reels of games that recreated the atmosphere of brick-and-mortar establishments. The random number generator determined the outcome of the games, but in terms of visuals and sounds, the slots didn’t change too much. Fruity themed games continued to dominate the landscape and they can still be found at modern UK casinos.

The emergence of major software developers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, Playtech and many more acted as a catalyst for slots. Healthy competition encouraged these developers to come up with ever better games. Fancy graphics, immersive sound effects and complex gameplay have kept slots in the spotlight and made them the most popular genre. Online casinos today offer more slots than any other games and they have developed a cult following.

Progressive jackpot slots continue to exercise a special attraction upon those who enjoy spinning the reels of these games. They offer the promise of potentially life-changing amounts with a minimal investment, which has always been alluring for casual and professional players alike. Online casinos powered by leading software developers have these jackpots pooled across vast networks. Tens of thousands of players contribute to fast-rising jackpots, which explain the record amounts won over the years.

While chasing these huge winnings, players are equally interested in finding slots that have a high return to player. UK casinos whose games are audited for fairness allow players to spin the reels of games that don’t pit players against the crushing house edge. Some games have a return to player of as much as 98% and in many jurisdictions, the authorities have imposed a minimum payout. Players should do research and make sure they focus on games that have the highest possible RTP to stay profitable in the long run.