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The History of Slot Machines

The History of Slot Machines

Synonymous with the conventional casino experience, slot machines have been the mainstay games of conventional and online casinos, which only continue to grow in popularity. Due to them being such an iconic aspect of gambling establishments across the world, it’s difficult to picture a time in which these machines weren’t staples within these venues. In fact, the slot machine as we know it today actually has a rather extensive history, with multiple different variations and changes being made throughout the years. However, do not worry, as we will be detailing everything you need to know about the history of the iconic slot machines.

What was the First Slot Machine?

To understand the creation of the slot machine, you must first look at traditional casino establishments. All of these differed across the world; however, they all had one thing in common. The ever-valuable floor space within these venues was filled with the more traditional table games many of us may be familiar with. Old-school casinos housed a variety of old-school card and dice-centered games, including Keno which originated from south-east Asia, as well as Craps, which can be dated as far back as the crusades of the 12 century. However, as the dawn of the millennium drew closer and closer, one certain invention would shape casino establishments for the rest of history.

Created in 1884 by American pioneer Charles Fey, the first ever slot machine was unveiled to both potential investors and the general public alike. Named the Liberty Bell, this machine featured a 3 reel symbol-filled display with a singular payline. At the time of its unveiling in San Francisco, the machine was a groundbreaking revolution due to its concept and mechanics. Liberty Bell laid claim to one of the first automated payout systems, yet to be present in any other game at the time. In addition to this, it served as an autonomous gameplay experience, not requiring a dealer for players to receive their payouts, unlike the common table games.

Splayed across the reels, Liberty Bell contained 6 separate pay symbols, 3 of which were card suits. The diamond, spade, and heart symbols could be landed alongside a collection of horses, bell, and star symbols, all of which offered players payouts should they manage to land 3 matching symbols on the game’s sole payline. The Liberty Bell symbol within the game was its highest-paying one, offering players a maximum payout of 50 cents. Although this seems minimal when considering the potential payouts of modern slot games, considering the changes in inflation rates from over 140 years ago would most likely see this payout worth a lot more.

The Boom of the Casino Industry

Due to the almost instant success following its unveiling, the Mills Novelty Company acquired the patent. As a result, the machine’s template began to be manufactured in high volume. Its mechanical blueprint was used to create new games, all of which shared similar aspects to the original Liberty Bell. After the introduction of the first machine, the mechanical slot machine began to become a popular fixture within the traditional casino establishments of the period. Liberty Bell and its successors would continue to be rolled out into venues across the globe; however, the dramatic expansion of the conventional casino industry would only occur following the end of the second world war. This can be attributed to one specific location, in particular, that being the Las Vegas Strip.

Following the legalization of Gambling in Nevada in 1931, Las Vegas acted as a catalyst for the boom of the casino industry. Attracting punters and players from all over the globe, Las Vegas and its evergrowing collection of hotels and casinos acted as the epicenter of this gambling utopia, with it maintaining this status for decades to come and still remaining this way to the current day. This can be down to a number of factors, the first of which is the wide variety of real money games these exciting establishments offer to people. Vegas game rooms were littered with various different table games such as roulette, blackjack, and 3-card poker, as well as increasing numbers of slot machines continuing to be added for locals and tourists to enjoy. A successful casino would give the widest game access to players, all whilst providing the opportunity to play for real stakes.

What Caused the Shift to Online Casinos?

This format of the traditional casino would remain this way for a number of years. The table games stayed relatively the same as did the slot machines, with the only new ones being added, including theme and display variations. However, this would all change in 1976 following the introduction of the first video slot machine. The familiar mechanical reels players had become familiar with were now replaced with digital displays allowing even more symbols and themes to be incorporated with the slot machines. The first edition of the digital slot was named Fortune Coin and featured an attached modified television which was adapted to be used as the slot machine’s new display.

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Despite this seemingly being groundbreaking at the time, this was nothing compared to what would come 20 years later. 1996 saw the inaugural introduction of the first online slot game. Coming to fruition following the dawn of the internet 10 years prior, Reel Em was released to the general public by developers WMS Industries. This proved to be another catalyst for the casino industry marking the beginning of the shift to online casinos. The fact this game brought players the casino experience closer to home revolutionized the industry, as the insight into the convenience of these sites became apparent to players worldwide.

How do Modern Slot Machines Continue to Develop?

As technology develops and changes, so does the casino industry. Following the dramatic improvement of technology in recent years, players now have the ability to play wherever and whenever they want due to the compatibility of online casinos spanning numerous devices such as phones, laptops, and tablets. Matching the evolution in technology, slot games continued to evolve, introducing groundbreaking mechanics such as the familiar bonus features of wilds and free spins, which are commonplace in most modern slots. In addition to this, the increased technological opportunities that continue to spring up have also seen dramatic developments in slot games in recent years. Augmented and virtual reality games have been a recent nuance certain games have begun to adapt, as well as the variety of live games that can now be played with dealers without having to actually travel to an actual establishment.


Since the initial introduction of Liberty Bell in the later 1800s, slot games and the casino industry has only continued to evolve, innovate and consequently expand into multiple avenues. With the recent surge in online casino popularity and the constant developments in technology, who knows what we could be in for next?