How are slot machines changing?

Slot casino games  were invented over 100 years ago.  They have undergone major changes over the years, from manual to automatic, from three-reels to five-reels and from simple machines that featured a few basic symbols to  dynamic machines that spark imagination through creative images, vibrant storylines and interactive action.

The 21st century promises to bring more changes to the slots.  Internet technology, video gaming platforms and other updates is making the slots into a new experience for veteran slots gamers and novice players alike.

What’s the future of slot machines?

History of Slots

The forerunner of the slot machines that we know today was the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell was a mechanical slot machine that was introduced in 1895 by Charles Fey. The machine featured three spinning reels with simple representations that, included diamonds, hearts, spades and  a cracked Liberty Bell. Whenever someone spun the reels and three identical symbols  appeared simultaneously in a row, a payout was delivered. Three Liberty Bells, the highest paying symbol, netted the winner a 50 cents payout. 

Fey's Liberty Bell evolved slowly. By the early 1900s, automated machines could be found in salons and corner drug stores. The updated machines displayed fruit symbols. Fruit-flavored candy and pieces of gum were paid out for the completed lines. People began to refer to the machines as "fruit machines"  -- a name that is still used among slots aficionados in Great Britain. Pub owners referred to the machines as "chewing gum dispensers" in order to avoid anti-gambling laws.

Slot machines were legal in some states and illegal in others throughout the first part of the 20th century. In the 1940s, when Las Vegas began to develop as a casino mecca, casino operators,  aware of the game's popularity, incorporated slot machines into their gaming rooms.

The slot machines became increasingly sophisticated over the years as new revisions helped to make the games more attractive. There were also a number of modifications that were introduced including an electromechanical arm, the bottomless hopper, logic boards  and automatic payouts. All of these features combined to automate the machines. This reduced staffing needs which then increased the value of the machines to the casino.

Five Reels

Until 1976, the slot machines included three reels and up to five paylines.  In that year the first video slot machine debuted. It featured 5 reels and logic boards to power the machines. Video slots proved to be very popular and the gaming companies continued to invest in them. Themes, elements and features  evolved and expanded. Every year, it seemed, new features and new elements were introduced to the casino slots. 

Today, the majority of slot machines involve five-reel video slots. Many casinos, however, offer a limited number of three-reel classic slots for players who prefer the old-time slot adventure.


Today it’s almost impossible to find a mechanical slot machine.  Instead, casinos use machines that are run by micro-processors. This technology opens many doors for casino designers who can offer players a more interactive and engaging slots experience while allowing casino operators to calculate average bet sizes, track odds, record the number of game played and the time that gamers spend on the machine.

Data on these types of metrics is valuable to the casinos as it gives them the information that enables them to better evaluate which games to keep while as they, simultaneously, monitor their own risk exposure. 

Cloud computing technology is also playing a big part in the development of new slots. Technological companies are racing against each other and against Internet giants such as Google and Facebook along with other social media companies who promote social media games on their platforms.

In addition, there are different types of applications that run on the majority of the available mobile devices. Slots aficionados enjoy the chance to play at virtual casinos and gamble from any location in the world.

Young Players

Skill-based slot machines are being tested at a number of casinos. These games increase the competition aspect of the game by requiring the participants to use skills or decision-making in their gameplay.  Many casino observers believe that skill based slots is the wave of the future. They say that skill-based slots will attract younger players back to the slots lobby after a period of decline among millennials who choose slots at the casino.

Another addition to the slots involves augmented reality slot machines.  In recent years the gambling industry has been tied to the progress of different types of virtual reality and augmented reality technology. This is the genre that is attracting young players and the slots industry is prepared to join in the movement.

The ultimate goal of slots will always be to make money – both on the side of the casino and the side of the player.  Within those parameters however, there’s room for imagination, invention and innovation.