Slot machines are among the most popular casino games ever created. Whether online or land-based, players can choose from literally thousands of them. So, where did they originate?
Let’s take a trip down history and talk about the first slot machine, the Liberty Bell, and how it came to be. You’ll also discover more about its features, how it evolved over the years, and the rise of online casinos in the digital age.
A Brief History Of The Liberty Bell
A mechanic in San Francisco, Charles August Fey, introduced the world to its first slot machine, the Liberty Bell, in 1899. It had three reels that used horseshoes, bells, and playing cards as symbols. As it evolved, people nicknamed the slot machine ‘Fruit Machine’ or the ‘One-Armed Bandit.’ Liberty Bell proved immensely popular in bars, with Fey’s competitors like the Mills Novelty Company copying its design.
Liberty Bell Features & Design
Coins And Payouts
With the first Liberty Bell slots, inserted coins fell into a balance scale, and when it tipped, the cash would spill out. As the then law opposed this machine’s operation, Fey and his competitors built machines with no coin slots. Instead, deposits and payouts—mostly drinks and cigars like those from ScotchCigars.com—occurred across a bar counter.
Each of the reels had symbols of a cracked Liberty Bell, diamond, spade, heart, and a horseshoe. In 1909, however, companies started using reel symbols of various fruits to circumvent the machine’s legal restrictions. They also added a picture of a chewing gum pack, soon referred to as the ‘bar’ symbol.
The Mills Novelty Company invented the jackpot in 1916. Players could trigger this feature by lining up specific combinations of symbols on the three reels, causing the machine to pay out all its coins.
Changes like the fruit symbols and payouts became a slot machine standard for decades later, with companies producing over 30,000 of these machines. Mills Novelty Company was first to design quieter Liberty Bell Machines, which gave them the nickname ‘Silent Bells’ in the 1930s. In 1931, the company also created a series of slot machine cabinets with different themes, and they called their first release Lion Head.
How Liberty Bell Worked
Players would deposit nickels in Liberty Bell, then tug the shaft located at the edge of the machine to get the reels spinning. After some time, the reels would stop on random symbol combinations.
If all three reels landed winning symbols, the machine’s bell would sound, and some coins would eject. The highest payout was fifty cents, triggered when all Liberty Bell symbols lined up.
Slot Machine Developments That Followed
1964 saw the first slot machine that controlled its reels electrically, the Money Honey. Players, however, still had to pull its lever to start it. The game could pay out a maximum of up to 500 coins because it also came with an enormous repository.
Soon after, in the late ’70s, a company called Fortune Coin created the first video slot that displayed its reels and symbols on a 19″inch Sony TV. The machine first featured at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, but after the Nevada Gaming Commission’s approval, its popularity surged throughout the Las Vegas strip.
First Online Casino & Games- The Dawn Of A Digital Age
CryptoLogic launched the first real money online casino launched back in 1996, and they called it InterCasino—a famous casino brand to date. It offered just 18 casino games, including classics like Roulette and Blackjack, but it wasn’t long before it also added slots. We all know how the story goes from there; thousands of casinos developed, and reviewers like OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos will point you in the right direction.
Slots & Jackpots
Cash Splash by Microgaming was the first progressive jackpot, released in 1998. The developer released five more slots; Golden Dragon, Pirates Paradise, Martian Money, Trick or Treat, and Pharaoh’s Fortune, the same year. The games’ designs remained similar to that of land-based slot machines, with the same fruit symbols and reel number.
Microgaming also developed the first online video poker in the mid-90s, with fresh designs and themes compared to its predecessors. One of the game’s first variations was Deuces Wild, which had two serve as the wild. Joker’s Wild was also among the first popular video poker games, and as the name suggests, a joker was its wild card. Like most other video poker variations, landing a royal flush in both games had the highest payout.
Online Live & Table Casinos
With the first online casinos’ arrival, players could try their luck with the standard version of Roulette and Blackjack anytime. The casinos streamed live games from their land-based venues using cameras placed at the ceiling. The games had poor video quality, so any interactions with live dealers were limited.
Among the significant events that led to the growth of online operators was the passing of the Free Trade & Processing Act. Antigua and Barbuda’s government implemented this law in 1994, and by doing so, they granted licenses to launch online casinos.
The Liberty Bell Slot Began It All
Everyone can agree that by introducing the Liberty Bell slot machine in 1899, Fey had a massive impact on the casino industry. Fast forward 20 years, and computers have added the endless unique features and innovative themes and symbols we all know and love. One of the first Liberty Bell machines is on exhibition as a historical artifact in Nevada at a restaurant called Liberty Belle.