Slots History

The inventor of slots was Charles Fey, a young engineer from San Francisco, and it was due to his efforts that today the slot machines are a the phenomena they are. His first machine was operational in 1894 and Fey himself placed his early machines in the gambling palaces of San Francisco, but it took him a decade to improve his invention.

Fey was born Vohringen, Bavaria in 1862 to a poor family, he was the 16th child of his family, this gave him little hope for a future in Bavaria and when he grew up he moved to San Francisco when he was 23 years old. There he started to work at California Electric Work (CEW) in 1887, and it was there, at CEW, that he met his future partner: Theodore Holtz. The two quit their job, combined efforts and together they invented the first slot machine the “4-11-44”, which was similar to modern slots in many ways, which proves that the device Fey and Holtz built was perfect in so many ways that most of the original design had past a full century with little change.

The early slots were not as hideous as one might think; they resembled today’s slot machines in many ways, including their size, but the symbols were not the same as today’s regular symbols. In Fey’s slots there were symbols of cards: Diamonds, Clubs, Hearts – Kings, Queens and so on, also symbols of a Star and Horseshoes were present on the reels. Fey’s machine had three reels, which began to spin after a Nickel was inserted. The original slots had a bell which rang when the right combination was achieved, but these were removed in later versions.

The first slot machines generation was called New Nickel Machines, these were presented in 1887. These soon gained much popularity among the population of San Francisco and Fey understood the huge potential of his invention. Fey joined forces with the Mills Novelty Company in 1907. The company used Fey’s designs and manufactured the Mills Liberty Bell. Few years later a new version was introduced to the market – the Operator Bell, these were heavy monsters that weighted over 100 pounds, and more than 30,000 were made and distributed in the San Francisco area.

The Mills Company continued to improve Fey’s design and in 1915 the company introduced light version of slot machines, colorful cabinets. These new slots were quieter than early versions thus these were referred as The Silent Bell. The company added bonuses such as the Double Jackpot and many other innovations which are still used today. But all of that was due to the hard work of a young engineer from San Francisco – Charles Fey.

A dark age came upon slots as the Anti-Gambling movement, which originated in San Francisco in the first decade of the 20th Century, grew in power. The Anti-Gambling movement made slots illegal and for more than two decades slots remained underground.

It was due to technological developments that slots gained all their lost popularity. In 1964 the Nevada Electronics Twenty-One Machines were presented. These were equipped with chairs to fit two to four players. Until that time slots were using mechanical parts and cheating them was easy, but microprocessors and other electric devices soon put a stop to it and with their help slots’ size shrunk. They needed less space and weighted little in comparison to the old-age slots.

Slots are the tremendous success of the casinos, they take a large percentage of any casino’s property and they generate more than half of a casino’s income. According to the Nevada Gaming Almanac 2002 (NGA), in 2002 slots produces more than 73% of Las Vegas’ casinos’ income.

Soon after the electronic age of slots came the age of video slots in 1975 when the Fortune Coin Company introduced their first slot video machine, but it these slot machines didn’t gain much popularity. Most players didn’t trust these machines since they couldn’t see the reels turning.

The Fortune Coin Company was purchased in 1978 by the International Game Technology or IGT. This company was owned and managed by William Redd. IGT improved Fortune Coins’ video slots and soon after they started to gain popularity among players in Las Vegas’ casinos. IGT continued to improve its machines and in 1982 they introduced Megabucks, a video-progressive slot machine.

Megabucks, 3 coin dollar slot machines, were interlinked in the each casino; this made it possible for a large progressive jackpot to be arranged. Megabucks eliminated the small slots’ jackpots, which took much time to accumulate. Megabucks’ attraction gained the public’s trust, and soon they rushed towards the new generation of slots machines, which can be found in casinos around the globe.

Today the slots industry is focusing on Nickel Machines that are manufactured in Australia, these allow players to insert multi-coins, and bet on different outcomes of these video slots machines. They nickname comes from the use of five cents.

Another issue that the slots industry focuses on is the new payment method that the new generation of slot machines offers I/O Tickets. The new in/out tickets system would credit players’ ticket, thus ending the age of coins. In/out tickets would eliminate the use of heavy buckets that are filled with coins by slots players. But don’t worry; these would not be gone from the casinos’ halls in the near future.

Frank Holmes
Editorial Staff