Slots machines, fruit machines, the slots, poker machines or even ‘pokies’; wherever you are in the world, you may call it by a different name, but you’ve certainly heard of it. Casino slots have been a staple in casinos since the turn of the 20th century and, with such high popularity, are estimated to account for as much as 70% of the average US casino’s income.

The first recorded slots machine was invented in 1887 by Charles Frey of San Francisco, California who wanted to find a way to replicate the excitement of card based poker games, the original casino game favourite. Knowing how difficult it would be to create a machine that automatically paid out on such a high number of possible winning combinations, Charles came up with a new system based on three spinning reels and a total of five winning symbols. With this machine, Charles unknowingly gave birth to the most popular casino game of the last century.

Charles Frey’s original ‘Liberty Bell’ slot machine had become extremely popular in bars and saloons across the US and was used as the basis for a number of other casino slot manufacturers. In 1891, Sittman and Pit of Brooklyn, New York developed a new machine that helped evolve slot machines into the modern example we have today. It contained five drums holding a total of 50 card faces and was based on poker. This machine proved extremely popular and soon many bars in the city had one or more of the machines.

Around the time that slot machines reached such a popular status in bars around the country, the US still had stringent laws on gambling in most states. This meant that the slots couldn’t make a direct payout for winners of the game, so instead they would pay out with various bar tokens. A pair of kings might get the player a free beer; whereas a straight flush could pay out cigars or drinks, prizes around this time were dependant on what the local bar owner was willing to offer.

This early method of slot machine payouts was responsible for many of the features you see today on popular casino slots. For example, the ‘trade simulator’, another early form of slot machine, paid out winnings with different flavours of fruit chewing gum with different chewing gum flavours shown as symbols on the slots. The popular cherry and melon symbols we see on today’s slot machines derived from this machine. The ‘BAR’ symbol, which is very common on casino slots, was an early logo of the Bell-Fruit gum company.

In 1963, the first known electromechanical slot machine was invented, the ‘Money Honey’. The original electric slot machine was the first to be fitted with a bottomless hopper and the first to automatically pay out up to 500 coins without the need for an attendant. The popularity of this machine led to a dominance of casino clots at casinos up and down the US aided by the rapid growth of casinos on the Las Vegas strip.

60 years later and the popular slot machine is here to stay. From the original 3 reel system of Charles Frey to the exciting and visually astounding online casino slots you can find today at, the evolution of slot machine gambling has come a very long way and long may it continue.

By Danny Solomou

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