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Like many pioneers, Charles Fey's work on slot machines has been overshadowed somewhat by rivals who took his ideas and ran with them. Because of the gaming laws in Fey's home state of California, he was unable to get a patent for his machine.
It was a key loophole that allowed major rivals like Caille Brothers, Mills Novelty Company, and Bally to muscle in. Despite the fact slot machines were banned, production continued and popularity increased.
Fey and his team couldn't keep up with the demand. He kept refusing to sell the rights to big manufacturers, though, and soon other inventors began to create their own knock-off versions.
Slot machines really boomed from this point and were popping up across hotels and venues around the country. They soon began to be known as 'one-armed bandits' because of their levers on the side.
Chicago-based manufacturer Herbert Mills made his own version of the Liberty Bell , The Operators Bell, that used three reels of different fruit symbols.
This is where the term 'fruit machines' originates from. The Mills Novelty Co. During the Prohibition period, machines began dealing out flavored chewing gum and candy rather than cash.
From this point, slot machines continued to be produced and appear in hundreds of different venues. The swinging sixties saw the rise of electromechanical slot machines.
Bally was the first company to create a slot machine with electric reels, called Money Honey. The game still needed to start with a mechanical lever, but the electric reels were a game changer.
It weighed a staggering lbs and was able to handle paying out hundreds of coins in one go. It was hugely popular.
Las Vegas-based Fortune Coin Company developed Fortune Coin, the first ever video slot, and gave everything a futuristic leap.
Several other cities passed anti-gambling legislation, but slot machines were here to stay by that point. This fruit machine concept worked well for the companies trying to find a loophole in the laws that banned gambling.
Fruit symbols are entirely innocent, and so is chewing gum. The cartoonish pictures of fruit often seemed somewhat childish. They evoked a sense of nostalgia for many customers.
Those simple fruit symbols drastically changed the way the public felt about slot machines. They were no longer seen as gambling machines that were limited to saloons.
Casinos and slot machine manufacturers have used fruit symbols ever since. Even when they started making cash payout machines again, they still used the fruit symbols because of the effect on customers.
Some customers may be hesitant about the harmful effects of problem gambling and not want to get involved in poker or blackjack, but even they can see the appeal of a fun fruit machine game.
Fruit symbols became synonymous with slot machines because they represented fun and innocence. Casinos want their customers to be amused and care-free.
They continue to use fruit symbols to create those feelings, even though slot machines have drastically changed since the first fruit machine was introduced in Anti-gambling legislation followed in the wake of prohibition, but it stayed much longer than the alcohol ban.
Fruit machines with chewing gum prizes were available for many years, but they eventually lost their appeal. Of course, there was one exception: Nevada.
The state legalized gambling in , so that was the only place that you could find cash payout slot machines after other states passed their anti-gambling laws.
Between and the s, organized crime ran rampantly through Las Vegas. Each mob operated their own casinos, and they used the legal casinos as a front for money laundering and other crimes.
The Center for Gaming Research only has data about the number of slot machines dating back to But in the s, Nevada only had approximately 22, slot machines throughout the state.
That number doubled by , and the s saw the number of slot machines in Nevada surpass , The addition of thousands of slot machines was directly tied to the gambling revenue for the state.
Slots manufacturers and casinos were eager to offer the best gaming options available. The slot machine was overdue for some modernization, and that was the key to casino success.
The first electromechanical slot machine was introduced in , and the first video slot followed in These innovations made slot machines more exciting than ever and helped them become the most popular form of gambling in the casino.
The most significant update to the slot machine came in when a manufacturer, Bally , invented the first electromechanical slot machine.
Traditional slot machines used a spring and lever system. When you pulled the lever , a spring would set the reels spinning. Then, a series of gears would clamp down on each reel to make them stop, similar to the brakes on your car.
Those slot machines relied entirely on simple machines to operate. Some companies started experimenting with electrical slot machines in the s, but they still used the levers to operate the machine.
Bally changed all that when they introduced the first entirely electromechanical slot machine. It was called Money Honey. There was still a lever involved, but it was mostly for show.
Customers were used to using the levers to activate slot machines, and many of them believed that they could affect the outcome of the game by pulling the lever in the right way.
So, Money Honey kept the lever, but it did not actually control the game. The reels used electricity to spin. Another feature that made Money Honey stand out was the fact that it had a bottomless hopper.
The hopper allowed it to make payments of up to coins. The combination of its electromechanical design and the bottomless hopper gave the Money Honey slot machines something that no other slot machine could offer up until that point.
Money Honey slots had a 3-coin and 5-coin multiplier that paid customers larger prizes when they played with 3 or 5 coins. These multipliers were the predecessor of modern-day pay lines.
You can increase your chances of winning by playing all of the pay lines on a particular slot machine. The payout is proportional to the number of coins you insert or the number of pay lines you play with.
Bally changed the slot machine significantly when they invented the Money Honey game. Not only was it the first electromechanical machine, but it also offered higher payouts and coin multipliers.
These features made it far more similar to the slot machines that we use today than its predecessors. But, the revolution of the slot machine was just the beginning.
Fortunately, the next innovation in the slot machine industry came quickly. Less than 13 years after the first electromechanical machine, slot machines got a facelift again with the invention of video slot machines.
Fortune Coin Company took one of the most famous inventions of the s, the color television, and incorporated it into their slot machines.
They used a inch Sony TV to display the spinning symbols, instead of the physical reels that had been used since It was a four-reel slot machine with three pay lines called Fortune Coin.
These logic boards were the first version of the random number generators that slot machines and casino games use today.
At first, customers were skeptical of the video slots. Despite their lack of initial success, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved the use of video slots in casinos.
International Game Technology , better known as IGT, bought out the Fortune Coin Company in IGT was able to modify the video slot machines to attract more customers and to benefit the casinos.
They added visual effects to make it look like the reels were spinning. They also made the slot machines smaller, with individual chairs so that the casinos could fit more of them on their gaming floor.
Fortunate Coin Company gets the credit for creating the first video slots. But it was their merger with IGT that made these slot machines profitable.
Atlantic City legalized casinos around the same time, so IGT had a whole new market of casinos to work with.
Video slots transformed the casino industry, and casinos everywhere began offering thousands of these machines. Manufacturers updated the graphics and the internal mechanisms, but no one considered moving away from pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.
Gamblers carried quart-size buckets of coins around with them. When they won, the machine would spill out a certain number of coins, filling the casino with the clinking sound of coins falling into the metal hopper.
However, slot machines never held enough coins to payout enough for some of the more significant jackpots.
So, if you won more than the threshold amount, which was usually coins, you had to wait for a casino manager to come to your machine.
The casino manager would come to check your machine, verify your win, and fill out paperwork. Once all of the paperwork was complete, they would carry more coins to you, accompanied by a security guard.
In many cases, the process of collecting your winnings could take an hour or more, depending on how busy the casino was.
It almost always took at least half an hour. Waiting that long for your prize money was anticlimactic for many gamblers. You may have just won a massive jackpot, but now you have to stand around waiting and filling out paperwork.
Fortunately, MGM Corporation changed all that. In the early s, MGM was constructing the MGM Grand Casino. They had an idea to make the new casino completely cashless.
Some of the inventions that were key to the success of the project included barcode scanners, bill validators, ticket printers, and game developers.
They bought gaming technology from Five Star Solutions, a barcode printer from John Yarbrough, and a bill validator from Pat Greene.
Little did anyone know, that from this humble beginning, would be born a machine of great potential. Not just any machine, but the first ever, coin operated gambling machine.
A year later, continuing on his initial work, Fey cobbled together another machine. The initial success with the public was such that Fey wrote his letter of resignation and left his employment - we doubt he ever looked back.
The had been a big hit at a major saloon and perhaps sensing a tingle or excitement indicative of what was forthcoming, Fey crafted more and more of these machines to meet demand as his we imagine his bank balance grew and grew.
After observing the apparent success of his second machine and his first respectable hit, Fey, the pioneer that he was, continued to channel his effort and skill into developing a greater, more complex, more imaginative beast.
In the Card Bell was born, and just like that, the dawning of the three reel slot era began. In this particular machine, an arm would be pulled in order to start the reels turning and as the excitement would mount, the outcome would be decided by playing cards which would line up to form poker hands.
On something of a roll, the Bavarian inventor turned slot machine extraordinaire, would really strike gold in , when he emerged from his workshop with the Liberty Bell.
Consider the achievement, the look on his face and imagine his pride at developing such a masterpiece. As Oscar Wild once said, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Now let us introduce you to Mills Novelty Company of Chicago. Sniffing out success, this nifty, albeit non-snappily titled corporation entered the race, followed shortly after by the Industry Novelty Company.
This move batted their reputation as slot machine pioneers straight out of the park by abolishing the playing cards and developing the first fruit symbol only slot machine.
The hole in the middle of the trade check allowed a detecting pin to distinguish fake nickels or slugs from real nickels. The demand for Liberty Bell slot machines was huge.
Fey could not build them fast enough in his small shop. Gambling supply manufacturers tried to buy the manufacturing and distribution rights to the Liberty Bell, however, Charles Fey refused to sell.
As a result in , Herbert Mills, a Chicago manufacturer of arcade machines, began production of a slot machine, a knock-off of Fey's Liberty Bell, called the Operator Bell.
Mills was the first person to place fruit symbols: i. Inside each cast iron slot machine there were three metal hoops called reels.
Each reel had ten symbols painted on it.
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