If you visit any UK gaming site, you’ll probably be bowled over by the choice of slots available. There’s quite literally a slot for every occasion, theme, brand and subject. With countless software providers available, including the likes of Netent, Pragmatic Play, Microgaming and Thunderkick, there are tens of thousands of slot titles available to play at UK online casinos. We thought this would be an excellent opportunity to talk to you about slot machines, online gaming on slots, and their history.
Brief History of Slot Machines/Fruit Machines (Las Vegas, Pubs, and now online casinos!)
Remember, if you are British, the term Slot Machine is interchangeable with Fruit Machine. So, as you are reading the history of slot machines, it is pretty much the history of Fruit Machines at the same time. Slot machines have their roots in poker. In 1891, Sittman and Pitt, based in New York, developed a gambling machine. They didn’t expect it to be all that successful, as nothing like it had been attempted before, but they gave it a go.
This ‘slot machine’ was pretty much like a game of poker. There were five drums in the machine. There were 50 cards represented. Players would insert their coin and pull the lever. They would then hope for a good poker hand. Now, it is worth noting that this machine had no way to pay out to people. Instead, the bar owner would keep an eye on the machine. Certain poker hands would attract certain payments from the bar owner. This would normally be a free drink or cigar. The bar owner could easily modify the machine to reduce a person’s chances of winning.
Now, when this gaming machine started to get popular, people began to want it to payout automatically. However, poker is a game that is easy to win if you are not facing somebody else. This means that there were dozens of different ways to win on an unmodified machine.
Designing a way to pay out on a device this complex would not be accessible with technology at the time, so Charles Fey, who lived in California, came up with a better idea. He designed the Liberty Bell. It had three spinning reels and five symbols. The chance of winning on this was far lower than with the original poker machine, which was great. This meant that automatic payments could be paid. As you can probably guess, this new slot machine took America, by storm. Sadly, Charles Fey could not produce enough machines to meet the demand. As a result, more slot machine manufacturers entered the fray and started developing their own devices. Eventually, a lot of places would have a slot machine in place. You could not enter a bar, barbershop, or bowling alley without seeing a slot machine there.
Now, we don’t want to dive into the various slot machines. What we do want to talk about, however, is the trade simulator. These were slot machines that were placed near the check-out in shops. They were designed to encourage people to spend money but did not have high pay outs. One of these machines gave away free gum. This gum came in various flavours. The flavour you received depended on what you spun on the reel – and this is where the idea of fruit machines came from (the fruit was used on the reel to determine the flavour!). The BAR symbol you also find on slot machines nowadays came from a gum company. This was the Bell-Fruit Gum Fruit Company.
Now, we will fast-forward a little bit here, all the way through to 1963. This was when Bally designed the first fully electromechanical slot machine. This revolutionised the industry, and now slot machines could be placed anywhere, even without an attendant nearby. In 1976, the first video slot machine was born, which provided an even better gambling experience. The first of these machines was placed in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel.
This is not where the story of slot machines ends, however. In the late 1990s, online slots became popular. This allowed people to play slot machines from the comfort of their own homes. Many of them boast far better pay-outs than their ‘physical counterparts’ too. The vast majority also boasts many features that the physical options are simply not capable of. It is hard to predict the way in which slot machines are going to go over the coming years.
Online casino providers are always trying to ‘one up’ one another when it comes to this type of machine, so you can expect more and more online slots to be released with top movie licenses behind them.