Slot machines can be found not only in live casinos, but also online at virtual casinos, not to mention at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.
However, these popular machines have a very humble history.
The Early Years of Slot Machines
The slot machine's story began at the turn of the 20th Century, when a German immigrant named August Fey built a metal box with three spinning reels in San Francisco. The three reels contained various symbols, including bells, and when three bells lined up in the box's window, the top prize was awarded.
The idea caught on quickly, and less than a decade later, Herbert Mills in Chicago expanded upon the "Bell Machines," adding symbols and widening the window so players who missed hitting could see just how close they came to a winning spin.
Mills mass-produced his machines and sold them all over the country. Initially these machines paid in prizes other than cash to avoid gambling legislation, but in 1931 when gambling was legalized in Nevada, cash-payout slots quickly began to appear in local casinos.
The Bally's Generation
In 1960, the Bally's company replaced the traditional mechanical make-up of the slot machine with an electromechanical system.
This allowed for machines that could both collect and pay out faster and quickly made Bally's the market leader in slot machines.
Slot Machines Today
Today, slot machines often have a tremendous amount of bells and whistles, even more than before. While some still have the "arm" that can be cranked to set the wheels in motion, they can all be operated simply by pressing a button on the display.
They allow for multiple coins that can result in payouts on as many as nine lines, and offer huge progressive jackpots.
Furthermore, the slot revolution has moved to the online world. When online casinos began cropping up at the turn of the 21st Century, slot machines were a natural addition. They operate in almost exactly the same way as their physical counterparts, with no need to lug heavy buckets of coins to a cashier window.
As casino gambling has evolved, slot machines have evolved and their popularity as a gaming option shows no sign of waning.