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It is hard to know precisely when the first slot machine came out because it is difficult to define which machine was the first slot machine. The answer may change depending on your definition, but all of the earliest slot machine variations were invented between and When a player inserted a coin, the horses would begin to race.
Some machines used a balance scale. If your coin could make the scale tip, it would distribute the coins that had previously been connected.
It was similar to the coin pusher games that are still available in arcades today. The saloon environment encouraged wagering, and it was convenient to leave the machines on the bar top without taking up much space.
It did not take long for inventors, toy companies, and other businesses to find ways to incorporate bets and prizes.
The first game that involved gambling was actually the predecessor of the modern-day video poker game. Sittman and Pitt Company used five drums with ten playing cards on each drum.
They used a standard deck of cards, but they removed the ten of spades and jack of hearts. Removing these two cards lowered the possibility of getting a royal flush, which meant that the saloon owner would not have to pay out as many prizes.
It was an easy way to increase the house edge. Their machine would spin the drums and stop each one at random intervals. The player could receive prizes from the bartender based on the poker hand they created.
These prizes were typically free beer or cigars. The drums started spinning when you inserted the coin, but the lever was used to activate the stopping mechanism.
Because the levers were used to stop the drums from spinning, the players believed they could pull the lever at a specific time to try to increase their chances of winning.
Many superstitious slot machine players continue to believe that hitting the button or pulling the lever at the right time will help them win. But the superstitions persist anyway.
These coin-activated poker machines were remarkably similar to some of the ways that we gamble today. So, some historians and gamblers consider these to be the first slot machine.
If that is the case, the first slot machine was invented in However, some historians are still not convinced that these poker machines should count as the first slot machine because they did not automatically produce payouts.
When you did win, you most likely received free merchandise, but they did not pay out cash. That is where Charles Fey came in. Sittman and Pitt certainly deserve credit for their poker-based slot machine model.
But, they are often overlooked because of a man named Charles Fey. Charles Fey is often referred to as the Father of slot machines or the Thomas Edison of slot machines, partially because he made several variations.
All of his slot machine variations were popular, but he made specific changes to address cheating and other issues that slots players and proprietors had with the machines.
In the same way, Charles Fey never failed with any of his slot machine inventions. He just started with a decent machine and found several ways to make it better.
According to most historians and gamblers , Charles Fey was the inventor of the original slot machine. His Liberty Bell machine was the first to have an automated payout system and use symbols like the slot machines we use today.
These two factors make it the first cash-based slot machine. So, Charles Fey gets the credit for being the inventor of the modern slot machine. Charles Fey was born as August Fey in in Bavaria.
He later changed his name to Charles because he did not like the nickname, Gus. As a teenager, Fey got experience with mechanical and engineering skills because he helped manufacture farm equipment.
He moved to France, Great Britain, and eventually the U. All of his manufacturing jobs gave him the skills to engineer his inventions. Eventually, he started his own company with one of his coworkers.
They both created their own versions of slot machines and together created the automated payment system. Between and , Charles Fey created several different slot machine variations.
One of them was called , and it became surprisingly popular. So, he left his business with his old coworker and started his own factory.
After that, he created a game called the Card Bell, which was similar to the poker game from Sittman and Pitt. More importantly, it was the first three-reel machine with automated cash payouts.
Just one year later, Fey modified his game again. Instead of using a deck of cards, he added symbols to the reels. These symbols included hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes, and an image of the Liberty Bell.
Gold liberty bell symbols are still used on slot machines today. The highest payout you could get was 50 cents for getting three Liberty Bell symbols in a row.
So, it makes sense that Charles Fey called his machine the Liberty Bell. Unfortunately, Charles Fey never patented his game ideas, so his model for the Liberty Bell was quickly copied.
Other manufacturers started to replicate it, and soon there were Liberty Bell games or other variations in dozens of saloons across the country.
Most historians consider the Liberty Bell game to be the first example of a modern-day slot machine. It incorporated gambling, offered cash payouts, and used the lever system to activate the game.
The Liberty Bell attracted a lot of attention because it was the first coin-based game. However, not all of the attention was positive. Some players found ways to cheat the game by using fake wooden coins instead of actual nickels.
This cheating made the games less profitable for both Fey and the saloon owners who offered his games. The trade check had a small hole in the center of it.
When coins were inserted into the machine, the detecting pin would check the center to detect fake coins. There were several different variations of the Liberty Bell machine that Charles Fey created over several years.
Most sources agree that the first Liberty Bell machine came out in Many slot machines still feature Liberty Bell symbols. But, most people think of fruit pictures when they think about slot machines.
So, how did we get from horseshoes and liberty bells to lemons and cherries? You might be surprised that the answer has to do with chewing gum.
When slot machines were first invented, they were popular in saloons, and they often paid out in beer or cigars. Charles Fey introduced cash payouts.
As the prohibition movement spread across the United States in the early s, slot machines were often associated with alcohol. So, religious and moral leaders discouraged people from playing slot machines, and they also lobbied for laws against gambling.
Charles Fey lived in San Francisco, and his slot machines were taking over the city. There were more than 3, Liberty Bell machines in San Francisco alone.
The city finally listened to the religious leaders and banned cash slot machines in Of course, the slot machines were not limited to the San Francisco area.
They spread quickly throughout the country. When San Francisco banned slot machines, Chicago became the epicenter for manufacturers of cash machines.
Chicago had a significant mob presence that got involved with the slot machine business. This relation to organized crime further convinced politicians that slot machines were bad news.
According to Legal Slots, the term slot machines was originally used for all automatic vending machines as well as for the gambling devices, it was not until the 20th century that the term became restricted to the latter.
A "fruit machine" is one British term for a slot machine. The one-armed bandit is another popular nickname. The first mechanical slot machine was the Liberty Bell, invented in by car mechanic, Charles Fey — of San Francisco.
The Liberty Bell slot machine had three spinning reels. Diamond, spade, and heart symbols were painted around each reel, plus the image of a cracked Liberty Bell.
A spin resulting in three Liberty Bells in a row gave the biggest payoff, a grand total of fifty cents or ten nickels. Other Charles Fey machines include the Draw Power, and Three Spindle and the Klondike.
A time when these machines found their way into just about every holiday resort and bar. Recognising the chance to make a few quid or dollars, as it were organised criminals had got in on the action and were controlling these machines in increasing numbers - a sad and dangerous state of affairs.
Increasing pressure caused law makers to legislate, restricting the sale and transportation of these machines and generally eradicating them from all but social clubs.
The decline continued as states moved to outlaw gambling, leaving Nevada, which had relegalized gambling in , as the only place the machines could legally operate.
Over the coming years other countries would take note of the slot machine and their respective governments took a particular interest for one key reason: tax!
Shrewd folk in positions of power realised that these gambling machines could be capable of generating large sums of money for the treasury by way of tax revenue and in some cases, state run casinos.
Like wild mushrooms, slot machines began to sprout all around Europe — presumably having noted the popularity across the channel, in the french ended a 50 year ban, allowing slot machines in their casinos.
Got it yet?! Whilst several companies around the world were busily working on their computer games, somewhere in Calfifornia, the folk at Fortune Coin Company had been paying careful attention whilst crafting their own computerised product.
Their creation would see their names forever etched in history as the inventors of the video slot machine! The first of these machines used a 19inch Sony screen to entertain its first players and presumably with a few ginger taps of a hammer and a bit of carpentry, was incorporated into a suitably stylish cabinet and placed in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel.
After a trial period, which apparently saw the most savvy of players able to devise ways of cheating the machine, the machine was tweaked and adjusted to rule out any vulnerabilities to would be exploiters.
Presumably with some level of excitement, having witnessed the opportunity to scale, the big wigs at the Nevada State Gaming Commission eventually approved the invention for use on the Las Vegas Strip.
A monumental move that would eventually lead to there being about as many slot machines in Vegas around , , as there are people in Samoa ,, This is thought to be the earliest machine that resembles the slots we know today.
Car mechanic Charles Fey is widely regarded as the inventor of the first mechanical slot machine, although there is quite a bit discrepancy surrounding the year he made the first cast iron Liberty Bell.
It was the first slot machine of its kind to feature an automatic payout feature. The mechanics needed to be simplified, which is why it was made up of three spinning reels instead of five.
Each reel featured hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and liberty bells. You'd pull the lever to spin this pulled a spring inside the machine and the reels would spin before coming to a halt.
Fey also invented a number of other gambling machines and the 'trade check separator' that was able to reject fake coins.
Fey was born in Germany in before moving to the US as a young man to work as an engineer and mechanic. His work in France and England on early intercom and nautical instruments had marked Fey out as a genius with mechanics.
Like many pioneers, Charles Fey's work on slot machines has been overshadowed somewhat by rivals who took his ideas and ran with them.
Because of the gaming laws in Fey's home state of California, he was unable to get a patent for his machine. It was a key loophole that allowed major rivals like Caille Brothers, Mills Novelty Company, and Bally to muscle in.
Despite the fact slot machines were banned, production continued and popularity increased. Fey and his team couldn't keep up with the demand.
He kept refusing to sell the rights to big manufacturers, though, and soon other inventors began to create their own knock-off versions.
Slot machines really boomed from this point and were popping up across hotels and venues around the country. They soon began to be known as 'one-armed bandits' because of their levers on the side.
Chicago-based manufacturer Herbert Mills made his own version of the Liberty Bell , The Operators Bell, that used three reels of different fruit symbols.
This is where the term 'fruit machines' originates from.