Until the 1970’s table games ruled gambling casinos around the world and particularly in Nevada. Slot machines had been available since the 1940’s but weren’t particularly popular. The old stereotype was that you’d park Grandma at the nickel slots and let her loose while everyone else went to play blackjack or craps. The tide started to turn when Bally Manufacturing designed the first fully electromechanical slot machine called ‘Money Honey’. Their innovative design allowed players to cash payouts of up to 500 coins without stopping their play to summon an attendant. The casinos also liked this setup since it reduced their labor costs and kept customers playing. Electromagnetic games quickly became the norm and the iconic handle on the side of the slot machine served only as decoration.
Slot machines slowly but surely continued to increase their presence in casinos throughout the 1960’s but the next revolutionary innovation was still years away. In 1976, the Las Vegas based Fortune Coin Company released the first true video slot machine. Initially, players greeted the video games with some skepticism theorizing that physical analog reels were somehow more ‘honest’. The initial test run at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel showed promise, however, and not long after they started to pop up all over the ‘Silver State’. Fortune Coin Company didn’t stay viable long enough to watch the slot machine boom though their assets and technology were bought by IGT (International Gaming Company) who remains one of the dominant manufacturers of gaming equipment to this day.
IMPROVING TECHNOLOGY LEADS TO MORE POPULARITY
The technology used in slot machines kept improving exponentially and their design and gameplay became all the more exciting to players. Multiple pay lines had been seen on slot machines since the 1970’s though seldom more than 3 to 5. In the late 1990’s, video slots continued to evolve to add more and more paylines. The result was something of a payline ‘arms race’ that would eventually reach absurd proportions. What would begin with 9, 15 or 25 lines would ultimately end up in the thousands with some games offering as many as 1024 separate paylines.
Innovation continued to transform slot machines in every imaginable way. By the 2000’s it’s unlikely that slot machine inventor Charles Fey (he released the first successful commercial game called ‘Liberty Bell’ in the late 1800’s) would even recognize the casino staple that he created. Progressive jackpots allowed players the opportunity for huge paydays and the advent of networked, multi-casino progressive games like “Megabucks” would promise payouts in the tens of millions of dollars. Slots continued to accept more and more credits—many would allow players to wager up to 15 coins per spin. Of course it wasn’t that long ago when the coins themselves were replaced by a computerized voucher system.
Today, most slot machines are build around some type of licensed ‘theme’ in hopes of attracting players with familiar iconography. A slot machine based on the game show ‘Wheel of Fortune’ became a massive hit and it would usher in an almost ridiculous variety of themed games including TV shows past present and future such as “I Love Lucy” and “Game of Thrones”, iconic movies like “The Godfather”, popular music celebrities running the gamut from Dean Martin to KISS and Guns n’ Roses. There’s even games themed around a product with a Tabasco Sauce themed slot machine becoming a familiar sight in casinos.
The biggest innovation, however, would take the game out of the casino entirely. Players can now enjoy slot machine action online offering more variety than any land based casino in the world. Online slots play introduced some of their own innovative themed games but it was inevitable that many of the popular themes found in land based casinos. Today players can take a spin on games like ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘The Love Boat’ without having to leave their home.