Slot Games: A brief history

Slot machines have been around in their various forms for well over a century. In fact, a contraption that resembles what we know today as a slot machine was first created back in 1891.

In a very snowy, Brooklyn, New York 1891, a couple of gentlemen named Pitt and Sittman put their heads together and came up with the machine that would pave the way to what slot machines would develop into over the coming century.

The machine the two men created took the form of a one-arm bandit. It housed five spinning drums which held up to 50 playing cards. This original format was far from the sort of slot games available today with their fancy music, bright lights and animations. This was more akin to a one-player poker game, where a player would insert a coin (most likely a nickel), pull the lever and wait to see which cards lined up on the drums and thus, what hand they would present.

As is true of the modern machines, the beauty of this original creation was that the odds could be manipulated. By removing the ten of spades and the jack of hearts the odds of winning a royal flush would double in favour of the house.

Due to technological limitations, this early machine did not have the facility to payout winnings; therefore it would be a case of the machine being located near a bar and a player being able to claim something for free as their reward for the winning line up of cards.

The presence of these machines spread like wildfire across bars in New York and soon players were gambling small change in the hope of landing a good poker hand which they would excitedly exchange for a pint, or whatever prize the house had advertised.

The glory days of this original machine were limited. At the hands of a different inventor, who no doubt had observed the invention of Pitt and Sittman loomed a new machine, a superior one.

Charles Fey’s machine would swap the playing cards for symbols and would reduce the amount of reels to just three with a total of just five symbols. This alteration would vastly reduce the number of winning combinations and thus make it much easier to advertise winning combinations.


Amongst the symbols that Fey devised was the Bell that he would choose to incorporate in the name of his machine. Somewhere between 1887 and 1895, the ‘Liberty Bell’ was launched.

Fey’s invention is credited as being the first slot machine to comprise of a mechanical payout system, with the highest payout being a princely ten nickels.

Liberty Bell was a raging success and predictably, ignited the interest of a great number of businessmen who in turn setup companies creating similar machines, thus starting the slot machine industry.

In 1907 Herbert Mills of Chicago developed his own take on the machine, which he named, ‘Operator Bell’. This machine would take over from the Liberty Bell in terms of popularity and would become commonplace in the majority of pubs, clubs and barbershops.

Nowadays slot games are available in many different forms in many of the places the original games would have once called home. The main difference now is technology. Advances in this area have made it possible to play these classic games online, on computerised machines and even on mobile phones. Here’s to the next century of slot machines!