A staple attraction in casinos all over the world, slot machines enjoy an enduring, undeniable popularity. Compared with their logical, strategy-based counterparts, slots combine smaller wagers with quick, easy, and convenient plays. There is no waiting for other players, cards to be dealt, or roulette wheels to stop spinning. The progressive jackpot element of the game also means that there is every possibility that spending 50p could land you a jackpot of £50,000. So, how did slots become casino fixtures in the first place?

There is some debate as to who originally invented the idea of slots. Some believe that the first ever “one-armed bandit” was invented by Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York in 1893. This machine, based loosely on poker, contained five drums with 50 cards. Players would insert a coin and pull the lever to spin the drums, which would land on a random poker hand. Because the machine didn’t pay out coins, prizes were dependent on what the establishment could offer, such as free drinks or cigars.

However, there are others who believe that the first slots device was invented sometime between 1887 and 1895 by Charles Fey, the creator of a machine known as the Liberty Bell. This modest machine contained three reels and four symbols: a heart, diamond, spade, and Liberty Bell. Players deposited a nickel and pulled the lever to spin the reels, which would then land on any random combination of the four symbols, awarding the player with coins. It was this automated payout feature that led to the huge success of the Liberty Bell and subsequently inspired an entire mechanical gaming industry to use the design to create other, similar machines. In 1907, game manufacturer Herbert Mills produced the Operator Bell, which was installed in barber shops, saloons, and bowling alleys across the United States.

Until the 1960s, slot machines worked on a manual basis. However, in the 1960s slot machine technology began to introduce electronic features. Bally Manufacturing developed a machine called Money Honey that radically changed the way slot machines were played. Players could start games by pressing buttons rather than pulling levers. This button technology meant that players could also hold or nudge reels to try to make winning combinations.

In 1976, the Fortune Coin Co. developed the first ever video slot machine, which used screens to graphically display the slot machine functions. From this point on, all machines were designed using random number generators (RNGs), a far more reliable system than manually-spinning reels.

The slots that we see in casinos today are responsible for a significant percentage of casino revenue. Flashing lights and popular culture themes have only increased the popularity of the game, which now allows players to use more than one coin per spin in most machines, thereby increasing the chances of winning depending on the number of coins wagered.

The popularity of slots in the casino led to the eventual development of online slots games, which allow players to spin the reels from the comfort of their own homes. The advent of online casinos meant that games that were previously limited to bars and casinos could suddenly be played by anyone, anywhere, at any time (provided they were legally and technologically able to so do). The wildly attractive jackpot prizes and special online bonus features make online slots among the most appealing features of most casino sites. Online slot machines offer both straight and progressive games and are available on over 300 online casino websites, with some dedicating their services solely to the thrill and excitement of slots.