Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York, U.S. developed a gambling machine in 1891 which was a precursor to the modern slot machine. It contained five drums holding a total of 50 card faces and was based on poker. This machine proved extremely popular and soon many bars in the city had one or more of the machines. Players would insert a nickel and pull a lever, which would spin the drums and the cards they held, the player hoping for a good poker hand. There was no direct payout mechanism, so a pair of kings might get the player a free beer, whereas a royal flush could pay out cigars or drinks, the prizes wholly dependent on what was on offer at the local establishment. To make the odds better for the house, two cards were typically removed from the deck: the ten of spades and the jack of hearts, which doubles the odds against winning a royal flush. The drums could also be rearranged to further reduce a player’s chance of winning.
The first true slot machine was invented by Charles Fey of San Francisco, California, U.S., who devised a much simpler automatic mechanism. Most assert that Fey invented the machine in 1887, however some believe that he may have conceived the machine in 1895. Due to the vast number of possible wins with the original poker card based game, it proved practically impossible to come up with a way to make a machine capable of making an automatic payout for all possible winning combinations. Charles Fey devised a machine with three spinning reels containing a total of five symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts, and a Liberty Bell, which also gave the machine its name. By replacing ten cards with five symbols and using three reels instead of five drums, the complexity of reading a win was considerably reduced, allowing Fey to devise an effective automatic payout mechanism. Three bells in a row produced the biggest payoff, ten nickels (50¢). Liberty Bell was a huge success and spawned a thriving mechanical gaming device industry. Even when the use of these gambling devices was banned in his home state after a few years, Fey still couldn’t keep up with demand for the game elsewhere. Liberty Bell machine was so popular that it was copied by many slot machine manufacturers. Thus in 1907, manufacturer Herbert Mills from Chicago produced a slot machine called the Operator Bell. By 1908 lots of “bell” machines were installed in most cigar stores, saloons, bowling alleys, brothels and barber shops. The original Liberty Bell slot machine can still be seen at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, Nevada.
Other early machines, such as the trade stimulator, gave out winnings in the form of fruit-flavoured chewing gums with pictures of the flavours as symbols on the reels. The popular cherry and melon symbols derive from this machine. The BAR symbol now common in slot machines was derived from an early logo of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company. The payment of food prizes was a commonly used technique to avoid laws against gambling in a number of states, and for this reason a number of gumball and other vending machines were regarded with mistrust by the courts. The two Iowa cases of State v. Ellis and State v. Striggles are both used in classes on criminal law to illustrate the concept of reliance upon authority as it relates to the axiomatic ignorantia juris non excusat (“Ignorance of the law is no excuse”). In these cases, a mint vending machine was declared to be a gambling device because by (internally manufactured) chance the machine would occasionally give the next user a number of tokens exchangeable for more candy. Despite the fact that the result of the next use would be displayed on the machine, both courts ruled that “The inducement for each play was the chance that by that play the machine would be set to indicate that it would pay checks on the following play. The thing that attracted the player was the chance that ultimately he would receive something for nothing. The machine appealed to the player’s propensity to gamble, and that is [a]vice.”
In 1963, Bally developed the first fully electromechanical slot machine called Money Honey, although earlier machines such as the High Hand draw poker machine by Bally had exhibited the basics of electromechanical construction as early as 1940. The electromechanical approach of the 1960s allowed Money Honey to be the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper and automatic payout of up to 500 coins without the help of an attendant. The popularity of this machine led to the increasing predominance of electronic games, and the side lever soon became vestigial.
The first true video slot machine was developed in 1976 in an industrial suite in Kearney Mesa, CA by N. Cerracchio, R. Greene, W. Beckman, J. Reukes, and L. Black under the direction of the Las Vegas based Fortune Coin Co. This slot machine used a modified 19” Sony Trinitron color receiver for the display and logic boards for all slot machine functions. The prototype was mounted in a full size show-ready slot machine cabinet. The first production units went on trial in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. After some “cheat-proofing” modifications, the video slot machine was approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission and eventually found popularity in the Las Vegas Strip and downtown casinos. Fortune Coin Co. and their video slot machine technology were purchased by IGT (International Gaming Technology) in 1978.
The first American video slot machine to offer a “second screen” bonus round was Reel ‘Em In developed by WMS Industries Inc. in 1996. This type of machine had appeared in Australia from at least 1994 with the “Three Bags Full” game. In this type of machine, the display changes to provide a different game where an additional payout may be won or accumulated.
Slots related terms used
Bonus is a special feature of the particular game theme, which is activated when certain symbols appear in a winning combination. Bonuses vary depending upon the game. Some bonus rounds are a special session of free spins (the number of which is often based on the winning combination that triggers the bonus), often with a different or modified set of winning combinations as the main game, and often with winning credit values increased by a specific multiplier, which is prominently displayed as part of the bonus graphics and/or animation (which in many cases is of a slightly different design or color scheme from the main game). In other bonus rounds, the player is presented with several items on a screen from which to choose. As the player chooses items, a number of credits is revealed and awarded. Some bonuses use a mechanical device, such as a spinning wheel, that works in conjunction with the bonus to display the amount won. (Some machines feature two or more of these bonus styles as part of the same game.)
Candle is a light on top of the slot machine. It flashes to alert the operator that change is needed, hand pay is requested or a potential problem with the machine.
Carousel refers to a grouping of slot machines, usually in a circle or oval formation.
Coin hopper is a container where the coins that are immediately available for payouts are held. The hopper is a mechanical device that rotates coins into the coin tray when a player collects credits/coins (by pressing a “Cash Out” button). When a certain preset coin capacity is reached, a coin diverter automatically redirects, or “drops,” excess coins into a “drop bucket” or “drop box.” (Unused coin hoppers can still be found even on games that exclusively employ Ticket-In Ticket-Out technology, as a vestige.)
Credit meter is a visual LED display of the amount of money or credits on the machine. On video reel machines this is either a simulated LED display, or represented in a different font altogether, based on the design of the game graphics.
Drop bucket or drop box is a container located in a slot machine’s base where excess coins are diverted from the hopper. Typically, a drop bucket is used for low denomination slot machines and a drop box is used for high denomination slot machines. A drop box contains a hinged lid with one or more locks whereas a drop bucket does not contain a lid. The contents of drop buckets and drop boxes are collected and counted by the casino on a scheduled basis.
EGM is used as a shorthand for “Electronic Gaming Machine.”
Hand pay refers to a payout made by an attendant or at an exchange point (“cage”), rather than by the slot machine itself. A hand pay occurs when the amount of the payout exceeds the maximum amount that was preset by the slot machine’s operator. Usually, the maximum amount is set at the level where the operator must begin to deduct taxes. A hand pay could also be necessary as a result of a short pay.
Hopper fill slip is a document used to record the replenishment of the coin in the coin hopper after it becomes depleted as a result of making payouts to players. The slip indicates the amount of coin placed into the hoppers, as well as the signatures of the employees involved in the transaction, the slot machine number and the location and the date.
MEAL book (Machine entry authorization log) is a log of the employee’s entries into the machine
Low Level or Slant Top slot machines include a stool so the player has sitdown access. Stand Up or Upright slot machines are played while standing.
Optimal play is a payback percentage based on a gambler using the optimal strategy in a skill-based slot machine game.
Payline is line that crosses through one symbol on each reel, along which a winning combination is evaluated. Classic spinning reel machines usually have up to nine paylines, while video slot machines may have as many as one hundred. Paylines could be of various shapes (horizontal, vertical, oblique, triangular, trapeziodal, zigzag, etc.)
Rollup is the process of dramatizing a win by playing sounds while the meters count up to the amount that has been won.
Short pay refers to a partial payout made by a slot machine, which is less than the amount due to the player. This occurs if the coin hopper has been depleted as a result of making earlier payouts to players. The remaining amount due to the player is either paid as a hand pay or an attendant will come and refill the machine.
Taste is a reference to the small amount often paid out to keep a player seated and continuously betting. Only rarely will machines fail to pay out even the minimum placed bet over the course of several pulls.
Theoretical Hold Worksheet A document provided by the manufacturer for all slot machines, which indicates the theoretical percentage that the slot machine should hold based on the amount paid in. The worksheet also indicates the reel strip settings, number of coins that may be played, the payout schedule, the number of reels and other information descriptive of the particular type of slot machine.
Weight count is an American term, referring to the dollar amount of coins or tokens removed from a slot machine’s drop bucket or drop box and counted by the casino’s hard count team through the use of a weigh scale.
Mobile is when the slot machine is hosted for online gambling and it is usually available at a for use on a phone, tablet, or other portable device. These are often stand alone mobile casino applications but are also found as part of the online casino site. See Mobile gambling.