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Slot machines are, hands down, the most popular casino games played! Whether it is online or land-based, there are so many different kinds of slot machines to choose from. Well, if you ever wondered who invented the slot machine, now is the time to find out. The next time you sit down at a slot machine or spin the reels online, you can appreciate the incredible slot machine history.

Long before online slots were the norm, gamblers would use a device operated by dropping one or more coins or tokens into a slot, pulling a handle or pushing a button to activate the reels. Of course, land-based machines are still very popular. But before all the technology, slot machines were quite simple devices with symbols such as stars, card suits, bars and numbers. 

When Were Slot Machines Invented?

In the modern sense, the Bavarian-born American inventor Charles August Fey invented the first slot machines. At the time, in 1884, he was a mechanic in San Francisco who built his first coin-operated gambling machine. In 1885, he built the 4-11-44 (also spelled “Four Eleven Forty-Four”) in his basement. It was such a hit at a local saloon that he eventually quit his job and opened a factory to make more slot machine units. In 1898 Fey developed and built the Card Bell, considered the first three-reel slot machine with the world’s first automatic cash payout. It had a handle to set the reels in motion when pushed down.

Fey’s next slot machine was the Liberty Bell, which he built in 1899 and used horseshoes and bells, along with playing card suit marks on the reels. The player received the top payout if three bells lined up in a row. Sadly, due to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, only around four Liberty Bell machines built by Fey survived. The Liberty Bell was as popular as the top casino table games are today. Fey’s competitors copied the design, including the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago.

Many forces, including the clergy and the law, frequently opposed the operation of slot machines. In 1909, San Francisco banned the operation of slot machines. Fey and his competitors built machines with no coin slots where purchase and payout with drinks and cigars occurred surreptitiously across a saloon counter.

The Fruit Machine Era

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