Slots are and always have been the kings of the casino. They are the online casino games that generate the most money… by far. Chat to anyone who loves gambling and you will find that their interest was initially piqued by the jangle of coins cascading from a slot machine.
Who hasn’t sauntered into a gambling hall in Las Vegas, Sun City or Johannesburg and made directly for the one arm bandits? Slots are a kind of dry run for the more serious stuff that takes place in the relative silence of the gaming rooms.
Now with the ease and convenience of fingertip access to the best online casino games, you would think that slots would have lost some of their allure. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
At Springbok Casino and everywhere else for that matter, 3-reel and 5-reel slots are still the most popular online casino games in the galaxy!
With that sort of impact and reach, have you ever wondered when the first slot machines were built and what they looked like? Here is a succinct history of slots that will let you into all the dirty little secrets:
Horse Racing Machines
The very first gambling machines didn’t have reels, symbols or coin slots. They were rudimentary money-making appliances favoured by dodgy saloon owners in the USA.
The machines traditionally featured carved horses that were activated by a pull of a lever. In between swilling bourbon, chewing tobacco and giving the ladies the glad eye, punters could place bets on the horses.
In the earliest iterations of online casino games winners were paid out in Jack Daniels and cheroots!
Spinning Machines with Real Money Payouts
By around the late 1880s gambling machines were no longer novelty items that left patrons pissed-and-puffing. They were coin-operated gizmos that paid out in hard cash.
Some had a set of scales secreted in the hardware that could be upended by just one extra coin. When that happened, the lucky punter pocketed the ‘jackpot’. Others featured a circular display of numbers, colours or images and payouts were determined by where a lever-activated spinning indicator came rest.
With the benefit of hindsight these machines were the precursors of the online casino games we know and love as slots… but wait, there’s more refinement to come!
Fey’s Bell-Infused Coin-Operated Slot Machines
A brainy Bavarian living in San Francisco is officially regarded as the Father of Slots. Charles Fey launched the first coin-operated gambling machine to great fanfare and soon followed it up with the so-called Card Bell.
This nifty machine had automated cash pays and a set of three reels that were activated by a pull of a lever. As you have probably guessed the gaming symbols were playing cards icons that paid out the money when they lined up to form poker hand rankings!
The Card Bell was a roaring success, so much so Fey launched a second model - the now legendary Liberty Bell. This time the reels featured horseshoes, bells and playing card suits. Three bells in a row paid out top dollar.
Thanks to Fey slot machines went mainstream. This was the start of a journey that would culminate in their becoming the best loved online casino games - not only here at Springbok Casino but at all live, online and B&M casinos world-wide.
Bubble Gum Machines and the Mafia
As is their wont, the puritanical bible bashers of their era put the skids on legitimate saloon-based gaming. That meant that gaming machine manufacturers had to get a bit more creative with their designs.
Fey, who by that time was running the hugely successful Bell production line, started producing machines without coin slots.
In an even more canny move a Chicago based company developed slot machines disguised as bubble gum dispensers. For the first time ever fruity symbols - ostensibly to denote the different flavours of the gum - appeared on the reels… and the fruit machine was born!
The fruit machine developed at a pace and to rev up the x-factor, packs of gum were added to the fruit symbols. These gum packs were the earliest form of the classic ‘bar’ symbols that can still be found in the online casino games categorised as 3-reel slots!
A Global Phenomenon - Slot Machines Go Viral
Despite legislation banning gaming machines in most US states, they soared in popularity through the twenties and thirties. Massive amounts of money were fed into the machines, so much so that the organised crimes bosses soon sat up and took note.
By the end of the 1930’s the Mafia controlled the distribution of nearly all the ‘underground’ slot machines in America, a development that led to still more attempts at regulating the industry. Nevada became the only legal gambling state and the machines were moved accordingly.
After the end of the World War II governments needed tax revenue to rebuild their countries. They saw the potential in gambling and promptly legalised gaming machines. The end result? Slot machines went viral across the UK and Europe!
A Love Affair that Continues Today!
That was the beginning of a protracted love affair that has lasted to this day. Despite a few tweaks here and there - like the integration of electronic components into machines and the advent of simulated reels - the nuts and bolts of slot machines have not changed all that much since the time of Charles Fey.
Even in the era of online casino games, slots have retained their basic function and design. What has changed is the platform on which they are played.
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