Slot machines are the single most popular gambling game in the world, in both brick-and-mortar casinos and the world’s best online casinos. Powered by computers and sporting vivid graphics, slots are a powerfully addictive entertainment. In fact, slot machines are so popular that mobile slots games – even those with no payouts whatsoever – rank in the top five mobile gaming genres.
Believe it or not, slots have been obsessively addictive from their very start. However, it has been a long journey from the first “Iron Cases” (as slot machines were originally called), to the computerized, mega jackpot wonders of today.As slot machines have developed and expanded, their development has included its fair share of oddities and curiosities. Let’s explore the top five curious facts about slot machines.
Curious Slot Machine Fact #1
The First Slot Machine Was Not the First Slot Machine
Charles Fey of San Francisco is typically credited for inventing the first slot machine in 1895, the “4-11-44.” While the 4-11-44 was the first slot machine that actually paid out coins, “nickel-in-the-slot” machines, as they were called, had been around for more than a decade.The originals were mash-ups between vending machines, invented in the 1880’s, and gambling machines. Using card symbols and poker hands, they paid in merchandise, like drinks and cigars. They also required an attendant to actually pay out the merchandise.
Yes, vending machines and gambling machines both were called nickel-in-the-slot machines (later simplified to slot machines), though people soon adopted “Iron Cases” to describe the gambling machines. Vending machines continued to be called slot machines until the first decade of the twentieth century.
Curious Slot Machine Fact #2
The Fruits Originally Symbolized Chewing Gum Flavors
The real history of slot machines began when Charles Fey introduced a true gambling machine, a slot that paid out in coins rather than merchandise. As you might expect, good citizens did not approve.
Within a few years, municipalities began to ban these gambling slot machines. San Francisco banned them in 1909, requiring all 3,300 slots in the city to be junked.
Folks wanted their slots, though, so the Novelty Company starting manufacturing slot machines that also dispensed chewing gum. They populated the reels with fruits to indicate the gum flavor. And the bar symbol? That was originally the physical representation of a stick of gum.
Remember that the next time you hit five cherries . . . a century ago, you’d soon be chewing on some cherry-flavored gum.
Curious Slot Machine Fact #3
The First One-Armed Bandits Were Players
The early mechanical slot machines were easy to cheat. As in, really easy to cheat. All it took was a stick and the determination to jimmy it into the machine to stop the reels. The term “one-armed bandit” was first used to describe these sleazy slot cheats.
Proper folk who disapproved of slots – and there were many – used the terms “swindling machines” and “nickel-eaters” to describe them. However, “one-armed bandit” had a bit more bite to it, so soon they used that term to refer to the machine itself and it stuck.
If you’ve read somewhere that Charles Fey first called his machines “one-armed bandits,” not only is that wrong, it also would have been the stupidest brand name in the history of marketing.
Curious Slot Machine Fact #4
At One Time Slots Paid Out on the Next Coin
The history of slots is one of entrepreneurs staying one step ahead of the law. No matter how much upright townsfolk wanted to consign the machines to oblivion, players wanted their slots, so entrepreneurs thought up creative ways to get around the laws, serve their public, and make money.
A good example of that is that, for a few years, slots were also vending machines. After inserting a nickel, you got a pack of gum and a spin of the reels.
When the law caught up to that trick, these “vending machines” were modified to pay out winning combinations on the next nickel you put in the machine. Since you did not get a payout on your original nickel, you were technically not gambling that original nickel. You were also not gambling the second nickel, since you had already won.
As you might guess, lawmakers were not fooled and quickly caught up to that trick, too.
Curious Slot Machine Fact #5
Lightning Does Strike Twice
Everything about slot machines changed when slot jackpots were invented in 1916. A lucky player could win all the coins in the machine, usually a whopping 50 cents. The world hasn’t been the same since.
Slots jackpots took a massive step forward in 1986 with the invention of linked machines paying out mega-million-dollar progressive jackpots. With a single pull, a player could retire for life.
With the odds of winning a progressive jackpot around 3.2 million to one, you would think it impossible for one person to score two of these gargantuan wins. You’d be right. It is statistically impossible. The odds are almost 10 trillion to one.
However, though it may be statistically impossible, it is not totally impossible.
Elmer Sherman, a World War II veteran, hit the Megabucks $4.9 million progressive jackpot at the Mirage in 1989. Not content with just one big win, he made it his life’s goal to be the first person to win two Megabucks jackpots in one lifetime. In 2005, at the sprightly age of 91, he met this goal by snagging $21.1 million at the Cannery in 2005, proving that some people do have all the luck.
Now that you know these five quirky facts about slot machines, why not try your luck playing slots at one of the world’s best online casinos?