Its success story began in the late 1880s with the slot machine as an amusement machine. The French brothers Caille recognized at that time that they could provide good entertainment with such a machine. In 1889, they built their first simple slot machine, which strongly resembled a cast-iron stove, and called it Black Cat. The principle at that time was simple: The Caille Black Cat gambling machine consisted of a plate with different colors. By operating a lever, the plate started moving and then stopped on a color. The player won if he had previously placed a coin mechanically on the correct color. It was that simple to make people happy back then. The Caille brothers, however, quickly developed their slot machines further, also with regard to their appearance. Their later models were real eye-catchers and beautifully designed with beautiful ornaments. But these first machines were initially a very popular attraction in high society.
In faraway California, the German mechanical engineer Charles August Fey invented the first real slot machine in 1887. It was a machine that was to revolutionize slot machine gaming. It had three rotating reels, a release lever and a deposit and withdrawal tray and was named Liberty Bell. His machine, which paid out winnings automatically, was immediately well received by the society of the time. Over the next few years, Fey built other very popular slot machines and also triggered a boom for other manufacturers because he had not patented his machine.
In the following years, the other manufacturers developed slot machines according to a similar principle and for the broad masses. The company Sittmann & Pitt from New York also built a very popular slot machine in 1891. At that time the Poker game was just very popular and the company took advantage of the general hype by building a slot machine that made Poker hands appear. The mechanism contained a set of playing cards, a coin slot and a lever that started the game. Unfortunately, there was no direct payout for a good poker hand. Since such slot machines were mostly located in pubs or saloons, the landlord simply gave a free beer or cigar to the winner. At that time, there were no legally prescribed odds of winning and it is said that it was actually not easy to win a beer with the poker slot machine.
The history of slot games continued rapidly
Slots quickly became one of the most popular games and moved into amusement arcades and other amusement facilities. Their boom could no longer be stopped. In the time around 1910 they were already everywhere and they had made a name for themselves in society as one-armed bandits, as gambling robbed many people of their money, so to speak. The heavy cast-iron gambling machines were replaced by wooden ones and a whole industry quickly established itself, with the many different manufacturers outbidding each other with new models.
A short time later, machines with double jackpots and multiple winnings came onto the market. At the same time there were new laws, especially in the gambling country America, which literally put obstacles in the way of slot machines. For example, cash payouts were prohibited. Of course, this did not lead to the demise of slot machines, but to their reinvention, which, by the way, still has its effects today – fruit and chewing gum were paid out. This is how the extremely simple but ingenious cherry and fruit symbols were created on the reels, the first of which were expanded much later to include the BAR symbol. Another law that had a strong impact on the slot machine game was the Prohibition Act in America. Since the One-Armed Bandits were then mostly in bars and saloons, their existence was immediately threatened. But they could not be killed and people were very inventive at that time. Because of the prohibition of alcohol, illegal pubs were established, colloquially called Speakeasy. It means nothing else but “speak softly” to remain undiscovered. Anyway, the gambling machines were unceremoniously relocated to the illegal pubs and since there was alcohol there, the sweet winnings payouts were immediately switched back to cash or alcohol payouts. By the way, these restrictions only made the slot machine games more popular among the population.
Especially after the end of prohibition in America and also due to the wide distribution of electric current, a huge gambling industry established itself, especially in the state of Nevada in the next 50 years. A decisive factor in America, however, was that gambling was completely legalized. In Europe and Germany, on the other hand, the possibilities were much more limited, but this did not hurt the popularity of the One-Armed Bandits. They became an integral part of the “little game” in German casinos, which at that time were only available in well-known health resorts. Only in the 1970s did it become possible to operate casinos elsewhere.
The start into a new era of slot games
From 1963 on, unbelievable further developments in slot machines could be observed. The company Bally developed the first electromechanical slot machine, called Money Honey. It had a container that collected the winnings, several reels and paylines and also musical accompaniment to the game. Of course, other manufacturers also jumped on this bandwagon very quickly. The new machines were also able to hold larger coins, thus attracting more players, as the chances of winning increased. The tempting jackpots were invented.
The industry boom was also fueled by the fact that gambling was given more freedom worldwide. Casinos opened everywhere, new gaming halls were built and other new techniques were developed. New technical innovations catapulted slot machine gaming to a whole new level, which greatly enhanced the gaming experience for players. There were slot games with exciting new features, bonus levels were introduced and the jackpots became bigger and bigger. The simple, simply constructed one-armed bandit was replaced by highly technical slot machines. Instead of the notorious lever, there was now a large button that triggered the spin process of the reels.
Although free spins were great fun for players, jackpots were the measure of all winning opportunities. In some casinos there were maximum winnings of several millions and the temptations were really great, because whoever won such a jackpot on a slot machine did not have to work from then on.
The computer age revolutionized slot games
The slot machine game as we know it today is more diverse than ever. In addition to high-tech slot machine games in casinos and amusement arcades, electronic and virtual slot machine games have become increasingly popular with players around the world in recent years.
Although there are still classic slot machines in real casinos, online casinos in particular have led to a new boom in modern slot gaming in Europe. In America, this development has unfortunately been slowed down by the relevant laws. But almost everywhere else there are hundreds of game developers who are constantly creating new virtual slot games in the highest digital quality. Gone are the days of mechanical reels and the exciting noise of rattling coins. In casinos, games are played using cash cards and digital reels. The annoying musical tootling has been replaced by theme-related music in excellent quality. Today there are video slot games for every taste and for every player level. As in the early days, it is hard to imagine how the slot game could continue to develop. However, this gambling sector will certainly continue to surprise us for a long time to come with new innovations that will captivate us just as the first mechanical slot machines did 130 years ago.