A quick trip to one of our partner casinos, such as Chumba Casino, will reveal that of all the different online casino games you can play, slots are very much the game that draws the most people to play them.
That’s not surprising as for many, many years now, slots have been the most important type of game, in terms of revenue generated, for online and real-world casinos. Some estimates reckon that up to 80% of a casino’s income is generated by slot games.
It is not surprising therefore, that casinos pay a lot of attention to the slot games that they offer and developers are always trying to come up with slick new features that will appeal to gamers to come and try their particular slot.
However, have you ever wondered how slot games first came to be? What was that very first slot game and how did this simple game of chance evolve into the bedrock of the casino industry as it is today?
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The Birth Of Slot Games
So what was the very first slot game ever invented? Well, the answer to that is a little more
complex than just one game. In fact, it was two separate inventions a few years apart that provided the basis for slot games as we know them today.
In 1891, Sittman and Pitt, based in Brooklyn, New York developed a new type of gambling machine. It comprised of five drums, each holding ten card faces. The game was based on poker and players would insert a nickel, pull the lever and spin the drums.
If the drums showed a winning poker hand, then players would be able to claim a prize from the bar, such as a free beer, or a cigar or two. The establishment hosting the machine would decide what prizes would be on offer for players playing the game.
However, given the huge number of potential combinations of cards in this game, it was not possible at the time to develop a system to pay out prizes automatically from within the game.
At this time, Charles Fey figured that if he could reduce the number of combinations in the game, he could devise a form of automatic payment. His solution was to develop a game that comprised of three reels, with five symbols. The five symbols were horseshoe, diamonds, spades, hearts and the symbol that gave the game its name, Liberty Bell.
Three of the Liberty Bell symbols landed across the reels would see the largest payout of 10 nickels awarded.
The fact that this game produced automatic payouts means that it is often referred to as the very first slot game in history and it proved to be a huge success.
After a few years, California banned the machines, but the craze for slots had quickly spread to other states and Fey found himself unable to cope with the demand for his machine. So much so that other manufacturers were now also starting to offer machines.
One of those manufacturers was Herbert Mills and he is chiefly responsible for the nickname of fruit machines for slot games. In one of his early games, he developed a slot that offered prizes of fruit-flavored chewing gum as prizes, that would be automatically paid out by the machine.
To keep on theme, he replaced the standard symbols on the reels with fruits, lemon, cherries, oranges and plums alongside the Bell symbol. The slot also featured a picture of a stick of Bell Fruit Gum, which evolved into the famous bar symbol on the slots.
The use of the fruits proved to be very popular with players and soon led to other companies developing games along similar lines and hence the name ‘fruit machine’ was adopted.
Another popular nickname for slots, “one-armed bandit’ came into being due to the fact these early machines were operated by a lever than started the mechanics of the slot. The fact this lever looked like a limb and the machine could take money from you, the nickname ‘one armed bandit’ came into being.
From these first games sprang forth the industry that has come to dominate casino gaming over the last century or more. However, up until the 1960s, slot machines were limited in what they could offer due to the fact they were entirely mechanically-based.
Electromechanical & Video Slot Games
In 1963, slot gaming took another leap forward when Bally developed the first electromechanical
slot. The game was called Money Honey and by combining electronic components alongside the reels, this allowed for a far greater variation in payouts (with wins of up to 500 coins possible).
These new games also did away with the need for a lever to start the game off, and soon games with levers started to dwindle in number, replaced by a click of a button to start the game.
The first fully video slot game was developed in 1976 by the Fortune Coin Co. It’s initial design was trialled in the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, but required modification to stop people trying to cheat the game.
When these modifications were made, the game was approved for release in the state and proved to be a smash hit success in Vegas casinos, with the parent company eventually being purchased by IGT in 1978.
By now, the use of a new technology, microchips, was proving to be very popular as it offered slot
game designers the opportunity to develop games with many more potential payouts and many more combinations. This, of course, led to the proliferation of computers and subsequently, laptops, mobile phones and tablets as well as the development of the Internet.
Of course, it didn’t take game designers long to realise that slot games could be entirely digital and played over the Internet. The first Internet slot games appeared in the 1990s and a whole new industry of online slot gaming was born, offering casinos a new way to appeal to customers outside the confines of their bricks and mortar buildings.
Since then, online slots gaming has increased in popularity ever since with many thousands of games from hundreds of developers available to play at casinos all over the world. However, it all began with a couple of simple mechanised games at the turn of the 19th century and without those two games, the slots industry as we know it today may never have existed.