Slot Machine History begins in San Francisco USA, when a 29 year old mechanic by the name of Charles Fey built the first slot machine in history: the Liberty Bell.
An American invention, slot machines have since become very popular all around the world. The most notable places include Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean.
Let’s go back to the Slot Machine History: he created the first machine in the basement of his home. But the slot machines didn’t become popular as we know them today until years later when they were installed in Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo Hilton hotel in Las Vegas, NV.
The invention, hand made, in a small machine shop, has paved the road to gambling industries as we know them today. Charles Fey was not only the inventor, but also the first slot machine owner and operator, as he placed his work in the pubs. The history of slot machines has only then begun.
Slot Machine History says: Charles Fey’s very first slot machine was not any more bulky than modern day examples. Nor did its reels carry the fruit symbols common today. The standard playing card imagery was what we are all used to – hearts, diamonds, spades, bells, horseshoes and stars. The first very slot machine was actually called the Liberty Bell (see image below…), and can still be seen today in a collection at the Liberty Belle Saloon and Restaurant in Reno, NV.
A little smaller than present-day slot machines, but not less sophisticated, the first slot machine did not change much over the years; there are only slight changes. The wheels on the first manufactured slot machines were smaller and had only 10 symbols as compared to the 20 used today. The payout on the other end, was as it is today – cash! When one of the winning combinations was met, the machine paid out the correct number of coins, see below:
A) Two horseshoes 1 drink
B) Two horseshoes and start 2 drinks
C) Flush of spades 4 drinks
D) Flush of diamonds 6 drinks
E) Flush of hearts 8 drinks
F) Three bells 10 drinks
The payouts were listed in drinks, but the machine’s payout mechanism was in nickels – not so much different from today’s payouts.
Based on the Slot Machine History: The San Francisco Chronicle described Fey’s slot machine: “A slot machine featuring 3 reels mostly hidden with Horseshoes, Spades, Diamonds, Hearts, Bells symbols on reels. The device called slot machine is operated by depositing a nickel in a slot to release the handle, when the right combination of symbols stop in the window the player is awarded coins ranging from 2, on 2 Horseshoes to 20 for 3 bells. Most of those present agreed the slot machine should be a great success” Presented in 1887 as a ‘New Nickel Operated Machine’, Charley Fey, machinist and gamer, provided the world with what would become a phenomenon.
People went crazy about it. In fact, they became so popular that Fey could not keep up with the demand in and around San Francisco. You can only imagine what a phenomenon this new invention was in the 19th century. However, Fey refused all offers made to buy the manufacturing and distribution rights. That is until 1907, when the ‘Iron Case’ surfaced. Herbert Stephen Mills, a Chicago manufacturer of arcade-type slot machines, began producing a slot machine with a similar payout to Fey’s. This one, however, was encased in iron, hence the name ‘iron case’, and was the first slot machine in history to carry the symbols that we all know: bars, bells, oranges, lemons, plums, and cherries. By the time 1919 rolled around, you could find a slot machine anywhere in the country.
However, the era of cast iron slot machines ended in 1915, when Mills introduced slot machines with less expensive and more manageable wood cabinets. In the early 1930s, the Mills Novelty Company made a number of additional changes to its line of slot machines that revolutionized the new born gambling industry. First, it designed its slot machines to be much quieter.. That’s why its 1930s slot machines are referred to as the “silent bell”. Then it introduced a double jackpot that assured players that one could win twice in quick succession.
To make its slot machines memorable and enticing to players, Mills introduced a series of slot machine cabinet designs that were striking and colorful, each with its own theme. The first in early 1931 was called the Lion Head slot machine. In late 1931, it was the War Eagle slot machine and the Roman Head slot machine, and in 1933, it was the Castle Front slot machine.
The Lion Head slot machine still utilized the gooseneck coin acceptor that was the standard for the entire decade (1920s). The War Eagle slot machine, however, featured a new coin acceptor that displayed the coins played moving one by one across the top of the machine. This feature, not only added additional slot machine movement, but also provided the slot machine operator extra security by allowing him to more easily check whether slugs were being used.
The slot machine has been agreat success, without room for disagreement but it wasn’t long before people tried to cheat at slot machines. The movement of money is an interesting thing in and of itself. Just how much money was fed into the slot machine in Nevada and the Caribbean to get to the $300 million yearly gross revenue? If we do a little basic math working on the average that 10 cents of each dollar deposited is retained by the player, then $3 billion worth of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc. move through the slot machines.
Essentially, a slot machine cabinet housing contains three or more narrow cylindrical drums, commonly called reels, which are marked with slot machine symbols. Vertically disposed on a common axis, the reels are caused to revolve freely when a slot machine player activates the slot machine and pulls a lever-like handle affixed in the side of the cabinet. Payoffs slot machine are handled instantly, based on the horizontal alignment of symbols after the reels come to rest.
Nickel and quarter slot machines are by far the most popular, and account for about 85% of reel action in any given year. This slot machine popularity is followed by the dime boxes, then half dollar and silver dollar slot machines. You can now find slot machines that accept $5 bills, and some rather large progressive jackpot slot machines that take $100 bills! The modern, deluxe, single coin one armed bandits slot machine with a nice shiny chrome finish can run you as much as $1,700 to own for yourself. But even if you’re thinking of dropping that coin, (and here’s a good slot tip) check and make sure it’s legal to own a slot machine in the state or country you live in.
You’re probably familiar with the name Big Bertha” when it comes to slot machines. This slot machine was designed to accept half dollars and dollars, and to pay back about 80% of what it takes in. The box is made for the most part to be a propaganda slot machine, catching customers’ imaginations and desires in one big metal mental image.
It worked, which is proofed by the appearance of the Super Big Bertha slot machine. This six by ten foot super slot machine is said to have cost more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to produce. A Five horsepower electric motor is needed to power the twenty-inch wide chain driven wheels. With eight reels containing 20 slot machine symbols each, there are 25.6 billion different possible slot machine combinations. Only one of which actually pays the 1 million dollar promised slot machine prize.
A little more basic math shows that with these odds, one individual would have to put about 205 billion one dollar spins to work to mathematically hit the million dollar slot machine prize. Not the best return on investment ever conceived, except from the land casino operators point of view. A long-standing record of $65,093 was won in one slot machine pull on a one-dollar progressive at Harold’s Club in Reno in 1973. Quite recently (in 2001) a woman won over $1,000,000 in an Ontario, Canada casino. It’s worth noting the slot machine was a progressive that was $100 a pull.
In addition to being the biggest revenue producer, our friendly slot machine device have also been the single biggest cause of police raids, legal indictments, and courts decisions over all other forms of illegal gambling combined. Part of the problem is the manner of slot machine play. No other style of gambling creates such a hypnotic fascination.
The term zombie has been married to the slot machine reels in American popular culture for years now. It’s seen time and time again that it is very difficult to resist the temptation to drop a coin in a slot machine when given the opportunity. Even those who have a moral problem with the concept of gambling have been shown to be affected by this slot machine phenomenon.
The antecedents of this common behavior are rather indefinable, but it can most likely be largely attributed to two things, one just stated, the temptation to drop a coin in a slot machine with hopes of a massively large slot machine payoff for an insignificant bet, and the other is probably the mechanical attraction produced by the slot machines. The action of placing a slot machine bet lets you see the light show, and watch the reels spin. There is a larger level of excitement in slot machine reel players when they hit a jackpot than other gamblers when they win large sums. The complications behind this slot machine phenomenon are too complex to discuss here, but rely largely on the mental expectations and experience of slot machine players in each style of high stakes gaming.
Today, there is a number of companies producing slot machines, including: Mills and Company (the original), Jennings, Pace, and Bally, the largest of them all. There are also several in Australia and Japan. Undoubtedly, slot machines have become a world-wide phenomenon and one of the most significant additions to gambling palaces in history.
That was a bit of Slot Machine History.