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HOME > STRATEGY > Strategies & Tips > Slots Through Time

Slots Through Time

12 May 2020

By Frank Scoblete

In 1984, known as the George Orwell year, slot machine revenues outperformed table games for the first time. In both Las Vegas and Atlantic City a new king of games came to the fore. Slots now account for anywhere between 65 and 90 percent of casino revenue. Depending on where you play, you might find table games shoved away to make room for more slots. There are even casinos in the country that do not have any actual table games but have machine versions of them.

Let’s take a look at some of the great slot moments of the past and see where it all came from.

1881 (or thereabouts): Sittman and Pitt developed the first mechanical slot machine. Players could win beers or other drinks, cigars, or candy and gum on winning lines. The saying “Win a cigar!” came from these machines.

1900 or so: Charles Fey markets his invention known as the "Liberty Bell" slot machine. This three-reel machine becomes the prototype for all slot machines to come. It is the original one-armed bandit and it could be found in many bars especially on the west coast. Some fanatics blamed the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 on the fact that the city was lax when it came to gambling on such machines. It was called the one-armed bandit because you had to pull the arm of the machine to get the reels to spin. Today there are play/credit buttons and some machines do not have any “one-arms” to pull.

On the Liberty Bell, each reel has 10 symbols or stops, and thus there are 1,000 different combinations (10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000) to be made with those three reels. The winning symbol, the Liberty Bell, had one to a reel on the first two reels and two on the third reel. Therefore there is only a two in 1,000 chance to hit it (1 x 1 x 2 = 2).

1905: Charles Fey's Liberty Bell slot machine is stolen from a Powell Street saloon in San Francisco. Slot machines could not be copyrighted or patented and this theft lead to some other manufacturers “inventing” their own machines.

1906 and onward: Herbert Mills creates the Mills Novelty Company. This company becomes the early leader in slot machine development and distribution through World War II. Mills copies Fey's mechanism when he introduces the Mills Liberty Bell. Some experts believe that the Powell Street theft puts Mills into the slot business, a business his company dominates for over 30 years. The big question remains: Did Herbert Mills steal Fey’s machine?

1951: The United States fought for freedom in World War II but now comes The Johnson Act that severely limits such freedom. It says “no” to gambling games across the country with only a few exceptions. Nevada and certain areas in Idaho and Maryland are allowed to continue to offer this pastime to players. The postwar attack on gambling was a major part of law enforcement in those times and underground casinos were created in much of the United States to give players their fill of action.

1950’s: Vegas booms and casino gambling drives it.

1963: Bally's new electro-mechanical slot machine, the Money Honey, makes its debut. It contains the first large hopper of 2,500 coins. Bally's now becomes the number one slot machine manufacturer and distributor in the nation. This is the beginning of the super-jackpot concept.

1975: The Fortune Coin Company creates the first video slot machine. Today’s machines are computerized using a Random Number Generator (the RNG) to select the symbols that will appear or cards that will show the decision for the player.

1976: Bally's creates and brings a Video Draw Poker machine to the casinos. Interest in such machines increases gradually.

1979: IGT (International Game Technology) announces the creation of its "Draw Poker" machine. This machine becomes the standard. Such machines can be attacked by players who know the proper strategy for the play of their hands. Some video machines can actually be beaten by truly skilled players and this moment ushers in the amazing world of video-poker play.

1994: Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete ( a great guy!) is published. This book explains the insider slot placement philosophy of the casinos and debunks many of the popular myths surrounding the machines. Non-experts will learn how the modern computer-generated slots and the RNG work. While this is a fascinating book (if I do say so myself), many of its conclusions are no longer in effect. But it had a big impact in its time period. My latest book, Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines! (2010) discusses slot machines that can actually be beaten – although, sadly, the casinos offer fewer and fewer of these “banking” machines and many players have to go on serious hunts to find them. Jerry “Stickman” did the computer work to discover why these machines could be beaten.

2000: Cynthia Jay won close to $35 million at a Megabucks slot machine in the Monte Carlo Casino in Vegas.

2003: In 2003 a man surpassed Cynthia and won $39.7 million playing a Megabucks machine at Excalibur. His win was paid out in 25 installments. There have been some bigger wins with online slot machines.

Today: Slots and video poker machines still dominate the casinos and with online gambling offering hundreds of slot machines, it does not look as if the slot revolution will decrease any time soon. It is still the favorite game of men and women around the world.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I am a Dice Controller, and I Am a Card Counter. Available on Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books, and at bookstores. Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best-selling gaming author in AmericaFrank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books include Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win! and Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players.

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