Slots Started In The 1800s? No WAY!

By Christine
July 28, 2023

Yes, way. They did. Slots history has a seriously long back story. And you’re going to want to read all about it, trust us.

Slots are the backbone of so many great casino promotions. They’re mainstays of both bricks and mortar and online casinos (if you’re looking for one, by the way here’s a bonus code bet365). But it’s hard to believe they date back all that far. We’re about to absolutely blow your mind with this timeline, so buckle up.

1800s New York

Let’s rewind the clock back to the Big Apple in the 1800s. Walk into a bar in the city and you’re likely to see a slot machine. But not like the ones we’re used to today. These machines had five drums. Inside each of those five drums, there are 10 cards. You pull a lever and one card shows up in each drum. If you got a good set of five cards, ranked like a poker hand, you got a prize. Quite often these would be drinks or cigars, very rarely would you walk away with cash.

But not everyone was trusting of these bar-based machines. They earned the nickname “one-armed bandit” because so many people thought they were rigged.

Things go industrial from the 1890s

When slots history began, the machines were more often than not handmade. But once they started to gain a bit of popularity, mass production was ushered in. The first company credited with mass producing slot machines is Sittman and Pitt.

However, it was Charles Augustus Fey who really revolutionized proceedings. This late 19th century inventor started using reels and symbols (including card symbols, horseshoes and bells) instead of drums and cards. These are far more like the slot machines we know today. Plus, they had the added bonus that they could automate payouts. Making life easier for the bartenders and things a little more satisfying for the punters too. These machines were called the Liberty Bell and we’ve got a trusty spring to thank for the random combinations of symbols on the reels.

Fruit machines and a brush with the law

Slot machines were banned from 1902. Winning money from a machine like that was OUT. But people were so crazy for slots, that didn’t stop them. Instead slot manufactures introduced fruit machines. Now instead of winning cash, you’d win candy. And the flavor of the candy was reflected in the different fruit symbols that would appear on the reels. Neat, eh?

Swinging 1960s transforms slots too

Slots were always a massive feature of Las Vegas. But in the 1960s, they took another leap by becoming electric. Money Honey appeared in Bally Casino in 1964 and there was a flurry of excitement. Not only was it electric, but it could spit out a max win of 500 coins. Huge money compared to the manual slots!

The next big innovation was the video slot. It first appeared in the Hilton Hotel on a 19-inch TV screen. Quite modest by today’s standards, but it laid the groundwork for a huge groundswell of popularity.

And now they’re available to all of us on our tablets, phones and laptops. From progressive jackpot slots to traditional, what a journey slots history has taken us all on.

Want to read some more history articles?

We’re big fans of history over here at Bonus Code Poker, so we thought you might enjoy these other history reads too. If you’re as nerdy as we are, that is!

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