Slot Machines: Charles Fey, a Bavarian-born mechanic, and machinist, is generally credited with inventing the first slot machine at the end of the 19th century in San Francisco.
He solved a problem in the slot machine’s precursor by simplifying the design. He also created a structure for automatic payouts. In the 1890s, a popular gaming machine existed with cards where players would insert a nickel (comparable to $1 today). They would then try to make a good poker hand from the drum of cards.
These machines were novelties in some bars, but they weren’t intended as full-fledged gambling devices. Since there was no mechanism for automatic payouts, each establishment had its own prizes and prize structure. Often they would load 50 cards, instead of the full 52, into the machine to create an inherent house advantage, usually to make a royal flush less probable.
The first gambling machine we would recognize as a precursor to the modern slot machine was invented in Brooklyn, New York, by Sittman and Pitt. This five-reel drum held 50 card faces and was based on poker ranks. This tradition continues today, with the majority of online slot machine games featuring A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9 symbols on their reels.
In 1899, Fey devised a much simpler three-reel game. It had an automatic mechanism to pay out all possible winning combinations. Known as the Liberty Bell, it proved an immediate hit.
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