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How slot machines have endured over 100 years

THE FIRST slot machines arrived from the factory of the New York-based Sittman and Pitt company way back in 1891. The game that ran on it would today look like a video poker game to us. So why have slots endured relatively unchanged in design and popularity for the last 128 years?

That first poker game dealt out 50 cards across five drums where players paid a nickel per round in hope of a payout when a poker hand lined up. There was no Jack of Spades or Jack of Hearts, which helped give the house the edge. Payouts involved cigarettes or free drinks at the bar.

Why do slot machines always have the bell symbol on it?

The bell symbol goes all the way back to a machine Charles Fey designed at the end of the 19th century, which allowed for automatic payments.

It replaced the drum with reels and featured five symbols; hearts, diamonds, horseshoes, spades and the bell symbol. The biggest payout was for three bells. The bell was based on the famous Liberty Bell, and Fey named the machine after it.

Unfortunately, however, despite the gaming machine's popularity, he never bothered to apply for a patent and as such his designs were copied by other slot machine manufacturers that came after.

Why are they called fruit machines?

Slot machines were banned in some countries at the beginning of the 20th century, but they still persisted. Cash prizes weren’t allowed so fruit symbols were introduced and prizes of chewing gum or sweets were paid out corresponding to the winning symbol. It was around this time the BAR symbol was introduced, which was based on the logo of the Bell-Fruit Company.

How slots crossed over to online gaming

These first slot machines remained largely unchanged in their gameplay until the explosion of the internet and the crossover to online casinos. To start with, online casinos concentrated on the traditional casino games like roulette and blackjack, but online slots quickly became as popular as they were in land-based casinos.

Three reels became five and the number of symbols increased too. As computer programming advanced, new types of games with unusual themes, layouts, structure and bonus features emerging - for instance, Microgaming’s Cash Splash.

To get an idea of just how far these online slots have come, Betfair Casino have one of the widest selection of online slots anywhere. So, if you’re an aficionado of the traditional fruit machine or looking for bonus features on the latest five reel slots game there is something available for everyone - novice and professional alike.

While the overall gameplay remains similar, the prize structures have increased massively. Progressive jackpot prizes now exist of over £1 million for a single spin, including Betfair’s Gladiator Jackpot which currently has a prize of more than £1.2 million.

The reason slot machines have managed to remain so popular since their arrival is largely because they are easy to learn. Online slots in particular, compared to games of skill like blackjack, baccarat or poker, need little prior knowledge to play. Slots have been fun to play since the first poker machine and Fey’s Liberty Bell machine hit the bars of America over a hundred years ago - and with over 2000 different slots to play, they aren’t letting up in popularity either.

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