An enterprising American, Charles Fey, began inventing and manufacturing slot machines in 1894 from his workshop in San Francisco. Fey pioneered many innovations of coin operated gaming devices, including the original three reel, bell slot machine in 1898.
This “Liberty Bell” is considered to be the grandfather of all modern American slot machines as its basic design continues to be used in mechanical gaming devices today. The simple mechanical devices with three old-style reels holding 20 symbols have evolved into microprocessor-controlled devices with up to five spinning reels holding hundreds of symbols.
It was during the 1930’s that slot machines began to proliferate across the US, and in the late 40’s the infamous Bugsy Siegel added machines to his Flamingo Hilton hotel in Las Vegas. Originally installed as a way to entertain the wives and girlfriends of high rollers, revenue from the slot machines soon began supplanting that of the table games. In the mid 1980’s the popularity of slot machines and table games were on par with each other, but by the 90’s slots had taken over and now account for over two-thirds of casino revenue in the US! Apparently casino enthusiasts greatly enjoy the spinning wheals and the excitement of the winning bells!
Slot machines gained their universal appeal in casinos because unlike the other casino games, they are played at the pace of the player and don’t require the player to have any skill. Commonly referred to as “one-armed bandits”, the goal of the game is to spin the reels so that the symbols on all reels line up on the pay line in a winning combination. When this occurs, the slot machine pays out according to the payoff table posted on its front.
There are many different types of machines, and whether playing a progressive or a straight slot, players will be faced with a number of choices. Machines vary on denomination of coins, the number of reels, how many coins to play, and single or multiple pay lines. And now there are even similar ‘Video’ Poker machines based the same idea as slots.
Since the quarter and dollar machines are most popular, they can be found in many areas on the casino floor. Nickel machines can still be found in small pockets, depending on the casino. For the high-rolling player, casinos have instituted $5, $25, and $100 machines segregated to special VIP areas. These machines require the use of custom coin tokens or cash bills.
On average, machines operate on a two or three coin maximum. When it comes to multiple coin playing machines, there are subtle variations. With some machines, the number of coins played is proportional to the payoff, and with others, the payoff is more than proportional. Some machines don’t even pay a jackpot on one coin, and the three-coin jackpot often pays 150% of a two-coin win. In this case it is best to play the maximum number of coins.
When players hit one of the smaller winning combination they will be paid automatically by the machine. The larger jackpots however, will be paid out directly by a casino employee who is notified by a light on the top of the machine. Each casino’s slot payoffs will vary.