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History of Gambling Slot Machines

Slot Machines were officially invented in 1895 by and automotive mechanic named Charles Fey in San Francisco, California. Back then, they were not termed 'Slot Machines', as that term actually defined any mechanically oriented device that accepted coins. What Charles Fey created was a machine called 'The Liberty Bell'.

Fey's slot machine device consisted of 3 spinning reels. The reels contained 4 symbols each - Diamond, Spade, Heart and a cracked Liberty Bell. The largest prize that could be won from the slot machine was awarded for spinning the reels and stopping on 3 Liberty Bells. The prize awarded was a whopping 50-cents, delivered in 10 nickels. Of course, in 1895, this was actually a tidy sum of money.

Travel to Reno, Nevada and stop in the Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant, and you'll find the original Liberty Bell slot machine invented by Charles Fey. He was also responsible for developing slot machines known as the Draw Power, the Klondike and Three Spinde.

In 1901, Fey invented the first Draw Poker style slot machine as well. He also developed the first trade check separator, which was a device located in the slot machines that detected the use of real nickels, as opposed to fake ones, known as slugs.

Ever the successful entrepreneur, Charles distributed his slot machines to bars and saloons with a 50/50 profit share agreement. His idea was so enormously popular that Fey simply could not meet the demand working out of his small shop. Manufacturers of gambling supplies made repeated attempts to purchase the rights to the Liberty Bell slot machine, but Fey refused.

In 1907, a Chicago based arcade manufacturer by the name of Herbert Mills essentially copied the slot machine idea and released his own version, known as the Operator Bell. In an effort to divert from the playing-card style symbols, Mills became the first slot machine manufacturer to utilize fruit symbols, such as cherries, lemons and plums. He also managed to make the slot machine more practical and mobile by using less weight, where the original Liberty Bell weighed more than 100 pounds.

In 1909, the gambling slot machine business took a heavy hit when San Francisco outlawed them. That same year, the entire state of Nevada followed suit. By 1911, California had prohibited slot machines as well. Slot machines did not make a comeback until the 1930's, when Nevada re-introduced them for legal use in Las Vegas casinos. Herbert Mills manufacturing company, Mills Novelty, began developing more themed slot machines, and making them notably quieter to run. The extreme popularity of slot machines did not hit the United States until infamous mobster Bugsy Siegel lined his casino walls with these 'one-armed bandits'.

Through the years, slot machines were built under the same basic design as Charles Fey's original Liberty Bell. It wasn't until the mid-1960s that electronic slot machines hit the market, eliminating the ability to cheat, and adding bigger jackpot prizes.

In 1975, the Fortune Coin Company re-invented the slot machine by developing the first 'video slot'. These slot machines took a while to catch on because players simply didn't trust a slot machine that didn't allow them to visibly see the reels spinning. The video slot machine took off in the 1980s, along with the addition of multi-line betting options.

With the age of computer technology came the inevitable introduction of online casinos. The Internet took the world by storm throughout the 1990s, allowing people to find just about anything on the World Wide Web. Online slot machines were available by the mid-90s and have become progressively more sophisticated as software developers enhance their programs.

Today, fans of the one-armed bandit can log onto one of thousands of online casinos and play online slots to their heart's content. Whether for real money or just for the fun of it, with a few clicks of the mouse, players can enjoy the same range of slot machines online that they would find in a land-based casino.