They are a staple of casinos throughout the world. Dozens of the one-armed bandits are filtered throughout the casino floor. The sounds of slot machine activity in a casino are non-stop. While there are numerous games to play in every casino, the slot machines are the ultimate revenue generators for most casino operators. About 70 percent of the average casinos income is generated through slot machines.
The slot machine is a rather basic concept. A button is pushed to spin three or more reels. A player wins when a certain combination of symbols show up on the reels. So, how did this basic game became a goldmine for casinos?
Earliest machines date back to 19th century
The first slot machines were developed in the final decade of the 19th century. In 1891, the Sittman and Pitt company in Brooklyn, New York produced a machine that would become a precursor for future slot machines. Their machine was based on poker. It contained five drums with a total of fifty cards. With the help of pokers popularity, the machines began to show up in bars throughout New York City. However, there was a significant drawback for Sittman and Pitts invention. There was no payout mechanism built into the machine. The establishments that used the machines would offer their patrons various items, if the player received a winning hand. The players were usually paid with drinks, food or cigars to reward winning hands.
It didnt take long for someone to develop a machine that included a payout mechanism. In 1895, Charles Fey invented a machine that was a little more advanced than the one developed by Sittman and Pitt. Feys machine made it far easier to calculate a win. His machine featured five symbols instead of fifty cards. Fey substituted the five drums with three reels. This made it far more easier to calculate payout mechanisms. The symbols used by Fey were diamonds, hearts, horseshoes, spades and a cracked Liberty Bell. This led to his invention being called the Liberty Bell machine.
Feys initial slot machine was quite unique. It was made of over 100 pounds of cast iron. The payout of fifty cents for three Liberty Bells was a high reward at the time.
Modern machines took shape in the 1960s
While slot machines continued to grow and evolve in the first half of the 20th century, there were still some elements that were lacking. In the early 1960s, the Ballys corporation came up with a significant new slot machine. Their Money Honey slot device became the first slot machine to be completely electromechanical. While the mechanical slot machines had several issues to deal with, the new electric machines proved to be more reliable and secure. The upgraded machine included a bottomless hopper (the holder into which coins get paid out) with automatic payouts of up to 500 coins.
The slot machine technology has continued into the 21st century with several more advances for players to explore when gambling at casinos or online.