The History of Slot Machines

The world's first Charles Fay Freedom Bell slot machine

History of Slot Machines

The history of slot machines begins in the of 1887 (although some sources indicate the time period of 1899), when an American of German descent, Charles Fey, created and demonstrated a mechanical machine called the Liberty Bell – a symbol of independence in the USA). This 3 reel slot machine had 10 symbols on each reel which formed winning combinations, the character set had: spades, hearts, diamonds, horseshoes and the actual bell of freedom. The principle of payment and the game was also quite modern – the player inserted a coin of 5 cents and pulled the lever, the reels spun, stopped, and the player received a win if the combination of symbols formed the winning set. The maximum win was 10 coins, the payout percentage was 75%.

Initially, Fey himself had slot machines collection and leased them to bars and saloons for 50% of the profit. At that time, there were quite serious restrictions on gambling in the United States, so sometimes winnings were indicated in beer mugs, not coins, and also because of this, Fey could not patent his device. However, his business grew to a factory and flourished, slot machines were very popular. Both Fey and his imitators created new machines, with a lot of combinations, big wins (jackpot slots), etc.

In those states where gambling was completely prohibited, the slot machine was combined with a machine for selling sweets or chewing gum. Even the actual name “slot machine” for a long time meant both a gaming machine and a vending machine. The “win” in such vending machines was given out with fruit candies, which were distinguished by taste, hence the fruit theme in the vending machines – lemons, oranges, cherries, etc. In Britain, slot gaming machines still called as “fruit machines”. Another popular bar symbol also applies to these machines – this is the logo of Bell-Fruit Gum, a manufacturer of chewing gum.

It’s clear that the machines constantly and gradually improved – first they reduced the sound from the rotation of the reels, then they added different “bells” that signaled a win, reduced the weight of the machines, improved the design and ease of operation, switched from coin acceptors to bill acceptors, and then cards, etc. In addition, there was a constant struggle between manufacturers and players who tried to trick the slot machine. Coin acceptors were improved, access to drums was closed, blockages from mechanical interference were put, etc. On old mechanical slot machines, players tried to stop the reels in the right places by tilt / hit the machine to stop the reels.

Until the mid-thirties of the 20th century, slot machines gradually seized America’s drinking establishments. In the late forties, they appeared in the halls of the casino. It was originally planned that wives and girlfriends of serious players would play in them, shortly waiting. Slots are indeed and still are more popular among women, but interest in slot machines was not limited to female players. Already by the 80th year, up to half of all casino revenues was formed by slot machines, and now they account for up to 2/3 of the income.

In 1964, Bally Manufacturing (still one of the leaders in the production of gaming machines) created the Money Honey slot – it was the first electromechanical slot machine. Unlike the first slots, where everything worked on the mechanical principle, Bally made electric-related slots, as well as the ability to add lighting design. The same company in the mid-seventies began to unite the same slot machines in the network, which allowed to offer large jackpots.


In 1975, Walt Fraley created the Fortune Coin game, it was actually the first video slot. The rights to the game were acquired from him by the Australian company – International Game Technology (IGT), which next year introduced several similar slot machines. It cannot be said that the company was immediately waiting for success – at first, players did not trust the machines with television screens. They did not see the usual drums and were afraid that a new type of automatic slot machines would deceive them in terms of winning. The situation changed only in the early 80s, in 1979 the first video poker games appeared, and it was their popularity that helped video slots.

Since then, games have continued to evolve – graphics are improving, the number of lines is increasing, “scattered” symbols appeared, free spins and a variety of bonus games. Jackpots have grown significantly; they can now accumulate prize pool from slot machines around the world. Of course, we will see more improvements in the near future, it remains just to wait a bit, the story will continue..


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