Traditional Slots Background

The background on slot machines originates here in the United States. The game comes out of Brooklyn, New York from a couple of guys by the name of Sittman and Pitt. Their prototype came into existence in 1981, based on the game of poker, but without the cards. They utilized spinning drums that had all the cards printed on the five wheels in random order, and missing two. Five drums with 10 images per wheel totaled 50 images to be spun at random and fall into the traditional combinations of poker. The hope was to achieve winning poker combinations, but there was no direct payout mechanism. Instead, winnings were determined by the establishment: a pair of kings might earn the gambler a free beer, whereas more rare hands such as a Royal Flush could result in cigars. Some places removed a couple of cards from the possible images, usually the Ten of Spades and the Jack of Hearts, diminishing the chances of winning a Royal Flush. The spinning drums could also be rearranged to the house’s advantage.

Contrarily, Sittman and Pitt were not the only ones to come up with an idea in the arena. In San Fransisco, Charles Fey was also developing a comparable game, though his had a simpler mechanism. His game did not utilitze the symbols of playing cards but rather used 5 symbols: hearts, spades, diamonds, horseshoes and a Liberty Bell that gave the game its name. He also reduced the number of reels from five to three- limiting the number of winning combinations significantly enough to allow an automatic payout to be designed into the game. Three bells in a row was the biggest jackpot- resulting in a win of 10 nickels. The Liberty Bell game was such a huge success, that Fey’s personal accomplishment was surpasses only by the establishment of growing industry for mechanical games. Even when they were outlawed in California, the demand for Fey’s games were so great in surrounding states, he had difficulty meeting the demands.

There is one other game of mention in the early days of slots. This particular rendition gave out prizes in the form of chewing gum rather than money. The symbols on the reels were representations of the flavors to be won (cherries, grapes, pears, etc) and when the bettor won three of the same, they received that flavor gum as a prize. This is the origination of the popular cherry and melon symbols still present on modern machines. The “BAR” symbol came from the Bell-Fruit Gum Company’s logo. Finally, the first fully electromechanical slot machine was released in 1964 by Bally- it was called Money Honey.