From humble beginnings the mighty Slot Machine has grown into an unstoppable force of modern casino gaming. Taking over casino halls and lobbies, unchallenged, as if nothing came before it is now the world’s most-played casino game. As such, Slots, are the area of the casino that has seen the most innovation, change and development across the years since they were first invented, but they’ve not always had an easy ride of it and the tale of Slots history is a lively one spanning more than 100 years.
At the basic level, a Slot is a game of chance. Compiled of reels and cogs or nowadays simply software to emulate this and a random number generator. The reels are filled with symbols, spinning to their own beat, and delivering the chance at coin wins as the spin draws to an end, revealing if you are lucky enough to have matched any slot symbols, and win a cash prize. It’s a pretty simple idea, and yet in 1887, when Charles Fey invented the very first Slot Machine, he had no idea of the potential he had tapped into or that the Slot Machine as he knew it would come to change the course of casino gaming forever.
Are you curious to know what you’ll find in this slots history post?
- History of Slots 101.
- Land-Based Casino Slots.
- Online Slots and Casino Software: Where we are now.
- The Future of Online Slots.
The Birth of Slots: Slot History
To locate the birth of Slot Machines we need to go back over 100 years to 1887 San Francisco, California, where Charles Fey invented a machine made of 3 spinning reels, each containing 5 symbols- Horse Shoes, Diamonds, Spades, Hearts and a Bell. This was the machine that would forever change the history of Slots and casino gaming; the Liberty Bell, the world’s first-ever Slot Machine. It was quickly mass-produced for the consumption of keen players and it didn’t take long for other companies to get on the scene and start creating their versions. Examples include Sitman and Pitt’s, 1895 Poker based Slot, and Wookey Hole Caves’ iconic one-armed-bandit machine.
Software companies still incorporate many of the classic slot elements into new games today. For example, Fey’s first symbols have never lost their lucky association, often featuring in Classic Slots. And one-arm-bandit Slot Machines still fill brick and mortar casino halls across the world, so whilst many things have changed, you’ll still find plenty of traditional Slot elements creeping into the games you play today.
All in all, Slot Machines would ultimately have a hard time of it, being outlawed in the country of its birth, and struggling against gambling regulation elsewhere in the world, but even this could not stop the projection of what is now the world’s most-played type of casino game.
Land-based Casino Slots
For many years in slot history, up until almost the 21st century and the birth of online gaming, land-based Casino Slots would become the main way that Slot Machines were played. Lasting for almost 100 years, the slot history of land-based casinos is not clear cut, changing depending on your geographical perspective and location.
The first land-based casino was born circa 1638, in Venice. At this point, and for many years extending this, Casinos were the playgrounds of the rich and famous only and filled to the rafters with mostly card and dice games. The Slot was not yet a game invented, and it would be a tumultuous journey to where we are today, with Slots taking the top spot as the most popular type of casino game. This was mainly because governments have not had the easiest time keeping up with gambling habits, often they have been slow to regulate and legalise gambling, slowing the progression of Casino Slots. This continued right up to the end of the 20th century and we can see evidence for it all over Europe. In France, Slots were only legalised in 1988, despite their long history of gambling; having added the Queen to the deck, and inventing Roulette! They were even slower on the uptake of remote gambling, regulating it in only 2010!
As different territories and countries reacted differently to the chance to tax and regulate gambling, hives of casino territories would be created, such as Macau, featuring casino halls filled with room upon room of Casino Slots. With players spinning non-stop to the tune of coin wins tinkling into metal, heavy, trays. It would be this trend of creating gambling hot spots that would come to drive the casino tourism industry as we know it today. For players, this meant Slots were only available to those living in the territory, and with the money to play, or those who could travel- either way, it required a sizeable amount of moolah and made playing Slot a restricted practice! But as we enter the 21st Century, everything we knew about gaming would come to change.
The Current State of Play: Online Casinos and Slot Software
The nature of Slot Machines and slot history would fundamentally alter in 1994 when Microgaming developed the first online casino with an online payment system. This began what can only be described as the sky-rocketing popularity of Online Slots, casinos and gaming. There was a sudden rush to digitalise as barriers to reaching customers dematerialised and the market became filled with untapped potential. Suddenly, everyone who had access to a computer was a potential player.
It was a revolution in gaming, and online casino software companies began popping up and producing new online versions of Slots in earnest, creating what we have today, a thriving market and industry for Slots.
The picture we now see is one of a range of players, not constricted by budget or access, with hundreds of awarding winning Slot Games and developers leading the market, and with more playing options than anyone could’ve dreamt there would be. Even Fey himself could never have imagined a Slot, played via mobile, with 1024 way to win, or jackpots so high they would award £18 million.
The mechanics and technology may have changed with bonus rounds added at every point (you’re all Slot players yourselves, we need not explain the beauty of a modern-day video slot), but the basic idea behind Slot Machines remains the same; spin the reels, match the symbols and win.
Slot History: Towards the Future of Slots
For many, the world of Slots has only just begun to tap into its huge potential. As a game with few static rules, innovation is possible at all points and the game can change exponentially depending on the designer.
Reels can grow and shrink, symbols can explode, cascade or spin and bonus rounds are moving towards incorporating skill-based elements, levels and layers as beautiful as their rewards. As one of the most popular types of casino game, there’s no slowdown in sight for the growth, penetration and R&D into Slot Machines. They have not yet finished their casino journey, but this concludes our tale of slot history.