History of Slot Machines

Learn all about the History of Slot Machines. We look at where they came from, how much they have changed and what modern slots now look like.

The mechanical sound of the arm on the side of the fruit machine sets the reels spinning with a distinctive sound. Anticipation builds as all the colours and blurred images spin faster and faster. Then you hear the first clunk of the reel coming to a stop, followed in quick succession by the remaining spinning reels.

The feeling of playing a slot machine, be it in a pub, casino, arcade or even on your mobile phone, is a feeling like no other, but where did they come from? Who invented them? How much have they changed over the years? What slot machines are available to you today?

Where Do Slot Machines come From?

The oldest relative to the humble fruit machine was first placed atop bars in New York City in 1891. Manufactured by Sittman and Pitt, the first slot machine was based on a version of poker. The machine had ten cards on each of the five drums.

A player would put in a nickel and pull a mechanical arm on the side of the machine. Now, these one-arm bandits did not have an automated payout mechanism. Instead, it would be up to the establishment housing the machine on what was up for grabs if you won.

If you got a pair of aces, you could receive a free beer, and if you struck a royal flush, free cigars and drinks were the prizes rewarded to patrons. The first payout machine, which was automated, was invented just four years later by a car mechanic named Charles Fey on the other coast of America.

His machine was far more straightforward in tracking the possible win combinations. It had three rotating reels with five symbols on each. These symbols were diamonds, horseshoes, hearts, spades, and the Liberty Bell, which is what the machine was named after.

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How Much Have Slot Machines Changed Over The Years?

What came next if the Liberty Bell, Sittman, and Pitt’s machines were the roots of modern slot machines? For many decades slot machines remained fully mechanical, which gave patrons the feeling of control over the outcome.

However, in 1964 the first fully electromechanical slot machine was brought into the world. It was named the ”Money Honey” and was the first slot machine to have a bottomless hopper, allowing the “Money Honey” to make an automated payout of up to 500 tokens.

The reels were completely powered and spun by electricity, but the “Money Honey” still had a mechanical arm for players to pull down to start the process as it would have been too alienating to players at the time not to have the arm present.

The next step toward the brightly coloured video-based slots we have today was taken in 1976 by a Los Vegas company named Fortune Coin. This slot machine had a 19-inch Sony TV as its display which had to be modified to fit into the machine’s cabinet. It was first launched in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, and after some alterations to prevent cheating, the first true video-based slot machine became widely adopted.

In 1996 the last significant step was taken to bring slot machines where they are today. It saw the introduction of the “Reel ‘Em” mechanic developed by WMS Industries Inc. This allowed machines to trigger a bonus round where the player would be taken to a completely different second screen where players could win additional payouts.

Where and How Can I Play Slots Today?

Today slots come in all shapes and sizes. The industry has come a long way from saloons and tobacconist shops. You don’t even have to travel anywhere to enjoy the rush of playing slots. You can simply open a web browser on your PC and visit your favourite virtual casino. Alternatively, you can download mobile betting apps that include entire virtual casinos straight to your phone.

You can enjoy free spins, sign-up bonuses, and a wide variety of themes as generic as the wild west, jungles, and ancient Egypt or as obscure as Pokemon and other video games. All of these great features are thanks to the innovative and hard-working software developers tirelessly working on getting you your fun as smooth, fast and safely as possible.

As the never-ending march of improving technology continues, so continues your ways of being able to win on modern slot machines. The days of having to hit three sevens in a single row being your only way to win are far behind us. In modern slots games, you can win via paylines which can still be a straight line of a single symbol; however, with paylines, the symbol may also zig-zag across the reels.


There are entire websites dedicated to listing the themes and where to play them. Some will even have helpful ranking systems to ensure you get the experience you are looking for.

One armed bandits is a colloquialism from the days of the very first slot machines with a single mechanical arm on its side that had to be pulled to start the game.

In the UK, slot machines are usually referred to as fruit machines due to the symbols of early machines using fruit to represent the win state of the machine. In New Zealand and Australia, slot machines are called poker machines. This is most likely because the original slot machines were based on poker, and poker hands were used to determine the win states on those machines.

Due to strict gambling laws, slot machines were banned in the USA. Charles Fey found a way to use symbols such as horses and the liberty bell to represent win states which allowed him to bypass those laws.

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C Grand
C Grand

Chris GrandHead of Content

I am content writer specialising in the iGaming and gambling fields. I do hope that you can read and understand my point of view via the content I deliver by keeping you updated with the latest industry trends, and game releases. My aim is to deliver honest and true content to the benefit of the reader.