Pokies, fruities, one-armed bandits – they are all terms which describe one of the most popular casino games of all time. We’re talking about slots, whose popularity hasn’t dwindled since their arrival on the gambling scene over a century ago.

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The first primitive slot machine was developed in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt in New York. Based on poker, this machine had 5 drums containing a total of 50 face cards and was placed in almost every bar in New York.

Slot machine player

Not long after, the craze overtook the whole city of New York. Players inserted a nickel and pulled a lever hoping to get a good poker hand. Since there wasn’t a payment system installed, each win would get players a free beer or something of the sort.

Although primitive, Sittman and Pitt’s machine sparked the interest of many and led to the creation of the slot machine’s direct predecessor – the Liberty Bell.

The Revolutionary Liberty Bell

In 1895, Charles Fey invented a simpler casino game based on Sittman and Pit’s slot which had 3 spinning reels and 5 symbols including diamonds which are still in use in slots today.

The slot also had the Liberty Bell as one of its symbols, which is where it got its name from. With a maximum prize of 10 nickels, the Liberty Bell was a huge success. Still, the need for a simpler mechanism was not completely resolved, so in 1907, Herbert Mills invented a new machine called the Operator Bell that will soon be placed in each bar, restaurant, brothel, alley, barber shop, and street of New York.

The Operator Bell gave out fruit-flavored chewing gums as rewards and had fruits on the reels, so it’s connection to modern slots is pretty obvious. The payment in gum and food prizes was used in order to avoid gambling laws in most American states and it worked flawlessly. The Operator Bell was popular for decades until Bally developed a fully automated machine in 1963 (Money Honey) which is considered the first modern slot machine.

The Booming Popularity

Thirteen years after Money Honey, Fortune Coin Co. developed the world’s first slot machine. The first few units were installed in the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas and the rights to the company’s technology were bought by IGT in 1978. The rest is history.

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A spinning slot machine

After the huge success of Money Honey and Fortune Coin’s slot machine, casinos were soon flooded by different kinds of slots. Players were at the machines 24/7 and casinos were drowning in money. Sure, many won nice sums on the same slots, but as the old adage says, the casino always wins in the end.

The Next Landmark

The next major landmark in the history of slots was in 1996 when WMS Industries released the first video slot with a bonus round to the public. Called Reel ‘Em, the slot was an instant hit and set the stage for future versions of video slots which dominate the gambling industry even today.

Reel ‘Em had a second screen for the bonus round which featured additional payouts and made slots all the more popular in casinos. At that time, they brought in more than 70% of the casino’s profits, so new slot developers were spawning every day.

The Birth of Online Slots

The next logical step in the history of online slots was for them to enter the world of online gambling. At the end of the 90s when online casinos were already growing at an astounding rate, the need for more and games led developers to produce new exciting video slots, this time based on different themes.

In the beginning, the visual style of the games resembled classic slots which was understandable – the industry was still learning and wanted players to be in a familiar setting. However, the IT industry started making huge leaps forward in terms of gameplay and design, opening the door to a variety of innovations when it comes to online slots.

As IT technologies evolved, so did online slots. New features were being added, the graphics were much improved, and there were new slots added to the library of all online casinos every day.

The incredible growth of online slots meant that they would soon take over the industry, and it didn’t take long. Online slots are getting better day-by-day and there are thousands of great slots players can enjoy in online casinos right now. Whether you’re a fan of a specific theme or just like spinning those classic one-armed bandits, there are plenty of options to pick from, some more profitable than others.

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Progressive slots are in a league on their own. This term describes slots which offer progressive jackpots that pay out huge sums of money. Progressive jackpots mean that the jackpot is forever growing until someone lucky enough wins it all, and some have already won millions on slots such as Mega Moolah and Mega Fortune created by industry giants Microgaming and NetEnt.

Progressives give you a chance to earn head-spinning sums with a tiny bet, which is why they’re so popular in casinos.

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Where Do Slots Go From Here?

It’s difficult to tell which way slots will go in considering the always evolving nature of the IT industry. Right now, 3D slots are all the rage and there’s no doubt it’s because of their stunning graphics and gameplay. Progressive Jackpots might not evolve that much, but they do offer riches you can only dream off.

Who knows – with VR technology making strides in the past decade, maybe it won’t be long before we see the first VR slot, which we hope comes as soon as possible.

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