Who Invented Slot Machines?

In the history of casino games, the inception of blackjack and casino roulette remains a bit of a mystery. However, delving into the archives sheds light on the origins of money slot machines, offering insight into the evolution of these captivating games of chance.

The roots of gambling machines trace back to 1891 when the Sittman and Pitt Company of New York unveiled the first-ever gambling machines. Drawing inspiration from traditional poker, these betting machines found their way into bars in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago by the end of the 19th century.

Given the enduring popularity of poker in the United States, the Sittman and Pitt machines quickly gained immense success.
Poker card machines from 1891

Earnings Paid in Cigars

Playable with nickel coins, the poker machines of the era did not dispense coins as winnings. Instead, winners were rewarded with cigars. For smaller wins, winners received vouchers for free drinks at the bar, adding a unique twist to the early gambling experience.

Liberty Bell Slot Machines from 1894

In 1894, a German immigrant named Charles Fey, a mechanic by trade, crafted a groundbreaking invention that would reshape the landscape of gaming forever. The Liberty Bell machine, born in the back room of Fey’s San Francisco workshop, marked the first slot machine to pay out real money winnings.

After numerous tests and years of work, Charles Fey released the Liberty Bell machine in 1894. Different from its predecessors, Fey’s machine boasted three reels adorned with symbols. Most notably, it automatically paid out winnings for various winning combinations, setting it apart from the poker machines of the Sittman and Pitt Company.

Elegant and simple, the Liberty Bell quickly gained popularity in San Francisco bars, rewarding players with up to 10 nickels for the biggest wins.

Liberty Bell Reference Sites

Explore exclusive insights into the Liberty Bell on CharlesFey.com. This site showcases original models of Fey’s machines, now revered as museum pieces. Discover the allure of the Liberty Bell through original models that fetched record prices in the United States.

While other guides on Fey’s games exist, none are as detailed as CharlesFey.com.

Gambling Ban

In the early 1900s, gambling in the USA faced a period of unregulated existence. Between the 1910s and 1930s, responding to the widespread financial ruin caused by the “one-armed bandits”, the authorities banned slot machines across all US states. As such, slot manufacturers found themselves under pressure.

It wasn’t until the end of 1933 that these money slot machines became legal on US soil again.

Chewing Gum Slot Machines

Manufacturers devised clever alternatives during the gambling ban from 1910 to 1933 in the form of candy and chewing gum machines. Compliant with the law, these real money games did not pay out winnings in coins.

One notable success was “The Operators Bell” from the Mills Novelty company in 1910.

When winning, players automatically received balls of chewing gum corresponding to the fruits’ flavors displayed on the slot machine’s reels.

The Operators Bell

Fey’s Huge Collection of Games

Charles Fey was one of the most ingenious men to invent different types of slot machines from 1894 to 1930. He introduced the concept of jackpot machines, offering players a chance to win all the stored coins. Additionally, Fey crafted a machine with two bonus wheels. Although Fey is considered the pioneer of the mechanical slot machine, his only invention of real success was the Liberty Bell. Unfortunately, faced with significant competition, his other creations failed to establish themselves on US territory.

Casinos and Slot Machines

In the early 1900s, you could only find money slot machines in bars and saloons. By the 1930s, these one-armed bandits entered barbershops, tobacconists, and bowling alleys. It wasn’t until the construction of the first large casinos in Las Vegas in 1946 that slot machines became ever-present in gambling halls. Today, these one-armed bandits are a fixture in casinos worldwide.

Internet and Slot Machines

Slot machines are the most popular games at online casinos. Since the opening of the first casino sites in the 1990s to 2000, online slot machines have become an industry representing enormous business volumes yearly. The market saw the rise of industry leaders, with Games Global and IGT dominating the scene.

Games Global games are the most popular in UK online casinos, and IGT games are popular in North America, namely in US states with legalized online gambling. The same applies to casino sites in Ontario, Canada.

Impact of Fey’s Games Today

The Duo slot machine and its 2 lucky wheels
The brilliance of Charles Fey’s inventions continues to resonate in modern times. Examining recent classic 3-reel slots reveals echoes of the 1894 Liberty Bell game, Fey’s greatest success.

Fey’s ingenuity also extends to the introduction of slot games featuring jackpot wheels. The two-wheeled slot machine, “THE DUO,” stood out in 1927 despite not becoming a favorite among gambling enthusiasts.