The Fascinating History of Slot Machines

Slot machines have come a long way since Charles Fey first created his revolutionary Liberty Bell machine, yet many remain unaware of why and how these games of chance became so widely played.

Bally introduced their electromechanical slot known as Money Honey in 1964, featuring electrical reel control. This machine featured a bottomless hopper for easy coin loading and offered up to 500 coin payouts automatically.


Slot machines’ flashing lights, ringing bells, and tantalizing tingle make them highly addictive – yet these machines weren’t always such an integral part of casinos and gambling establishments.

Sittman and Pitt invented the first automated card machines in 1887. These rudimentary devices featured five drums to hold fifty playing cards and could only offer winning combinations a small reward in form of pennies or sweets when activated.

Charles Fey invented an advanced machine in 1902. His system allowed machines to pay out prizes using chewing gum as an anti-gambling measure, thus bypassing gambling laws. Chicago manufacturer Herbert Mills introduced his Operator Bell machine in 1907 – this version featured fruit symbols and added the iconic BAR symbol from Bell-Fruit company logos.


Slot machine symbols vary based on the theme of each game and vary from machine to machine. A player inserts cash or, in ticket-in/ticket-out machines, paper tickets with barcodes into a slot and activates it. When reels spin and winning combinations appear, credits based on paytable are awarded accordingly.

Slot machines have always featured fruit and other iconic imagery as part of their theme, and this tradition remains today. Certain slots even utilize stacked symbols that increase the odds of landing a paying combination.

Charles Fey of Bavaria developed the first modern slot machine – Liberty Bell – during the late 19th century. By replacing five drums with just three and adding just five symbols – horseshoes, spades, hearts, diamonds and the Liberty Bell itself – three of these symbols produced the maximum payout worth fifty cents.


Early slot machine players were restricted to three-reel games featuring symbols like fruits and bells for winning combinations. In 1894/5, however, Bavarian-born San Franciscan Charles Fey invented the first machine with real cash payouts – thus ushering in an era of widespread cash payments on slot machines.

His new machine featured three reels with only five symbols — hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and a cracked Liberty Bell — rather than five drums like other machines of its day. It became immensely popular at local saloons.

As gambling restrictions became more restrictive, manufacturers had to find creative ways of disbursing winnings – one being the skill stop button, a type of lever that allows the player to stop the reels at any time during a spin.


Players of slot machines may drop coins into them and spin the reels with hopes of seeing winning combinations emerge; but in order to go beyond simply the jackpot amount, specific regulations must be adhered to.

Charles Fey and others first created modern machines during the late 19th century. While these early devices resembled nothing like what we see today in casinos or online, these early machines bore little resemblance to what can now be found online or at casinos.

Early slot machines were intended to offer rewards such as cigars, drinks, or candy; as technology advanced however, machines also began dispensing money prizes as well. IGT wide-area progressive slots allow players to win big jackpots while still playing their regular game on regular machines.

Online slots

Inventors continue their work of making slot machines more engaging for players. Their latest innovations include symbols like wilds and scatters which increase winning chances – while at first these features might seem confusing, they become intuitive quickly once familiarity sets in.

Online slot gaming quickly rose in popularity as players could place bets with just a few clicks and hope the reels align for an impressive payout. But this wasn’t always the case: once upon a time table games dominated casino floors despite gambling restrictions preventing many Americans from participating. By the late 19th century this had changed.

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