Slot machines, also called one-armed bandits, involve reels, symbols and a lever or push-button spinner. Online and brick and mortar casinos all include slot machines because they draw in more than half a casino's income every year.
In the late 1800s, Charles Fey, a mechanic from San Francisco, game up with a game that involved three reels and five symbols. The slot machines had a lever, or arm, on the side and became known as one-armed bandits because people would lose plenty of money to the machines.
While his earliest machines pleased him, he worked strenuously to create a machine that included an area for winnings to be automatically spit out. He saw that dream come to life with the introduction of the Card Bell slot machine in the 1890s.
The Card Bell slot machine was incredibly innovative for its time. He incorporated trade-check technology to determine if a player was trying to use fake coins. Only real nickels worked in the slots. While the Card Bell used poker cards as the symbols, Fey soon changed the design and changed the name to the Liberty Bell slot machine.
The three-reel, one-line slot machine used five symbols (Diamonds, Hearts, Horseshoes, Spades the Liberty Bell itself). For the first time, an automatic payout opening was introduced allowing winnings to come pouring out. He allowed saloons to rent his machines and demanded half the slot machines' profits.
Soon after Fey introduced the Liberty Bell slot game, California banned gambling. Despite this ban, states that still allowed gambling turned to Fey for slot machines. Soon, he had more orders that he could handle. As demand grew, Fey refused to sell his company.
While the Mills Novelty website says Fey and Mills teamed up to create a new round of slot machines, published interviews with one of Fey's ancestors state that Charles Fey felt Mills stole his slot machine ideas. A worker for Mills' distribution division and would ship new slot machines designed by Fey to Chicago where they could be copied.
While difficult to ascertain the truth based on these conflicting versions, Herbert Mills successful slot machine, the Operator Bell, became noted because it incorporated the use of fruit as symbols. .
While slot machines remained popular for decades, it wasn't until the 1960s that Bally came out with a slot machine that would create a new trend. The lever-operated one-armed bandit was replaces with an electronic machine that could payout up to 500 coins at once and used push button spinning instead of a lever.
WMS Industries took slot machines to a new level in 1996. They created a program that allowed video slot machines to have separate bonus rounds that changed the entire screen's look. During these innovative bonus rounds, prize winnings could greatly increase making them far more appealing to gamblers throughout the world.