Notwithstanding the advent of online slot machines, the first, rudimentary version of which appeared in 1995, the term ‘slot machine’ usually refers to a coin-operated gambling device, with three or more reels activated by pulling a handle or pushing a button, and which pays out in coins.
The first recognisably modern slot machine, which satisfied all of the above criteria, was the so-called ‘Liberty Bell’ invented by Charles Fey in 1895. The Liberty Bell cost five cents a spin and offered automatic payouts of between five cents and fifty cents, depending on the number of matching symbols lined up on the pay line. The popularity of the Liberty Bell spawned a raft of similar machines and, in the early part of the twentieth century – thanks, in no small part to the legalisation of casino gambling in Nevada in 1931 – slot machines became an increasingly sought after form of gambling.
However, the next ‘quantum leap’ in the development of the slot machine did not occur until 1963, when Bally Technologies released the first fully electro-mechanical slot machine, known as ‘Money Honey’. Unlike its purely mechanical predecessors, Money Honey employed an electrically-operated coin hopper, which could automatically pay out hundreds of coins, without intervention.
The mid-Seventies marked the arrival of the first rudimentary video slot machine, known as ‘Fortune Coin’, which was actually built around a 19” Sony television screen. The Fortune Coin proved something of a disappointment, but the technology was sold to International Game Technology (IGT) by its original inventor, Walt Fraley, in 1976. Thereafter, video slot machine technology blossomed to become the dominant force in casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
Following the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989, online gaming was a natural progression and the first online slot machine, ‘Fantastic Sevens’, appeared in 1995. Fantastic Sevens was based on a classic, three-reel slot machine of the type traditionally found in land-based casinos, but nevertheless paved the way for the multi-payline, feature-rich online slots that are standard fare today.