A Brief History of Slots – from Liberty Bell to Joker Lanterns

Oct 1, 2020

Slots have had a much longer history than you might imagine, and accordingly, they’ve had various names down the years, depending on where you come from.

“Slot Machine” also known as:

Fruit machine (British English)
Puggy (Scottish English)
The slots (Canadian and American English)
Poker machine/pokies (Australian English and New Zealand English)
Slot (British English and American English)

If you’re reading this, you’ll probably already know that a Slot Machine is usually a casino gambling machine with reels which spin when a button is pushed or lever is pulled, hence their other well-known nickname “one-armed bandits”. You may not know that modern land based machines are still equipped with a legacy lever in addition to the button! As online gambling continues to grow and become ever more popular the old feature of slots is slowly becoming a relic of the past but it’s still being referred to in many online and mobile versions of the classic experience. Below you’ll find a timeline that goes all the way back to the Victorian Era right up to Joker Lanterns – Kalamba’s latest release!


That was the year in which Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York, U.S. developed a first gambling machine. It contained five drums holding a total of 50 card faces and was based on poker. This machine proved extremely popular and soon many bars in the city had one or more of the machines. Players would insert a nickel and pull a lever, which would spin the drums to display their cards, the player hoping for a good poker hand. There was no direct payout mechanism, so a pair of kings might get the player a free beer, whereas a royal flush could pay out cigars or drinks, the prizes wholly dependent on what was on offer at the local establishment.


Between those years Charles Fey of San Francisco, California, U.S. devised a much simpler automatic mechanism with three spinning reels containing a total of five symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts, and a Liberty Bell. Liberty Bell was also the name of the machine because of the symbol. It was a huge success and spawned a thriving mechanical gaming device industry. Even when the use of these gambling devices was banned in his home state after a few years, Fey still couldn’t keep up with demand for the game elsewhere. The Liberty Bell machine was so popular that it was copied by many slot machine manufacturers. Thus in 1907, manufacturer Herbert Mills from Chicago produced a slot machine called the Operator Bell. By 1908 lots of “bell” machines were installed in most cigar stores, saloons, bowling alleys, brothels and barber shops. Early machines, including an 1899 “Liberty Bell”, are now part of the Nevada State Museum’s Fey Collection.


In 1963, Bally ( American company that began as a pinball and slot machine manufacturer) developed the first fully electromechanical slot machine “Money Honey”. The electromechanical approach of the 60s allowed Money Honey to be the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper and automatic payout of up to 500 coins without the help of an attendant. The popularity of this machine led to the increasing predominance of electronic games, and the side lever soon became a relic of the past.


The first true video slot machine was developed in 1976. This slot machine used a modified 19-inch Sony Trinitron color receiver for the display and logic boards for all slot machine functions. The prototype was mounted in a full size show-ready slot machine cabinet. The first production units went on trial in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. After some “cheat-proofing” modifications, the video slot machine was approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission and eventually found popularity in the Las Vegas Strip and downtown casinos.


The first American video slot machine to offer a “second screen” bonus round was Reel ‘Em In. This type of machine had appeared in Australia from at least 1994 with the “Three Bags Full” game. In this type of machine, the display changes to provide a different game where an additional payout may be won or accumulated.


Slot machines are becoming the most popular way to bet and have a chance to win big. Not only on the spot in land based casinos (where they constitute about 70 percent of the average US casino’s income) but more commonly today across the many online casinos. The public enthusiasm for slots entertainment is reflected by the continued growth of the online marketplace.

New entertaining slot features are being developed every day, using new visual designs, engenius mathematics and engaging in-game features which enable game companies like Kalamba Games to produce the most advanced and enjoyable online slot experiences ever. Also, connecting multiple games via meta layers and promotions will become ever more important, such as with Kalamba’s Bullseye Remote Gaming Server and promotional tools suite.

Try our latest game release: “Joker Lanterns” which includes fantastic art, animations, audio and a super fun Halloween theme.


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Kalamba Games Ltd is registered under the laws of the European Union member state of Malta. It has registration number C78382 with office address at: Nouv, Triq MRO Frank Galea, Zebbug ZBG 9019. Kalamba Games Ltd's operations are regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) under the license MGA/B2B/861/2020 issued on 11th October, 2021. The company provides Type 1 Gaming Services. Find out more about the MGA at www.mga.org.mt. Gambling can be addictive, play responsibly.