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A Comprehensive History of Online Slots

Discover how online slots have progressed from the first mechanical slot machine of the 19th century to the online slot you can hold in your hand.

The mention of the work “casino” easily brings to mind an image of banks of slot machines lining up the room. Whether it is at a land-based or online casino, slots are the most popular type of casino games among players young and old alike.

Called fruit machine in the United Kingdom, pokies or poker machine in Australia and slot machine in most of the rest of the world, slot games have come a long way from the traditional slot machines of Las Vegas casinos.

While there remains a certain charm in the mechanical nature of the classic machines that cannot be replicated by online slots, the modern video counterparts have much to offer in fun and variety.

The evolution of slot games

Humble beginnings of slot machines

The first slot machine was invented in late 19th century California by Charles Fey. Called Liberty Bell, his simple slot game featured three reels and a few symbols, including the Liberty Bell that has remained a classic symbol in many slots today.

Though Sittman and Pitt of New York developed a 5-reel slot machine at about the same time, Fey’s 3-reel version proved more popular thanks to its simplicity as a game as well as ease of upkeep – since fewer reels meant fewer mechanical parts to maintain.


The early slot machines were very simple in design, offering three reels and a single payline – the line that determines a player’s winnings based on the combination of his symbols.

Slot machines were popular in pubs and bars. Compared to what contemporary slots can offer, the early machines awarded very modest winnings, including a few cents or other small prizes such as chewing gum. It was from these games that fruit symbols became a popular imagery in slots.

More features with video slots


A few decades passed before any significant advancement in slots were made. In 1963, Bally Manufacturing developed the first electromechanical slot machine, named Money Honey, which allowed players to receive a payout of up to 500 coins without the assistance of an attendant.

In 1976, less than a century after the slot machine was first invented, the world saw its first video slot from Fortune Coin Company. This was the first time slot machines used a graphical interface instead of physical reels to display symbols on screen.

The graphical interface made it possible for casino operators to easily include more symbols, reels and paylines in their slot games, as well as have more control over the odds.

Thanks to this innovation, most slots today feature more than one payline – sometimes up to a 100 or more. Paylines can take many shapes: horizontal, vertical, diagonal and even zig-zag.

Unless the game features fixed paylines, players can choose to bet on more paylines by increasing their wager per spin, which gives them more ways to win with every spin.

Moreover, video slots offer additional features such as free spins, bonus rounds and gamble options that mechanical slots are incapable of. Though the main draw of slot games is their simplicity, the extra features of video slots add undeniable thrill and engagement to the gaming experience.

The rise of online casinos

Casinos made their debut on the internet in the early 1990s. This advancement was led by the pioneer of online gaming, Microgaming, which developed the first online video slots and introduced them to the public in 1994.

While the advent of video slots allowed for more game features, the introduction of online casinos made video slots more accessible and convenient to play.

Players can log into their online casino account anytime they feel like placing a wager instead of having to travel miles to the nearest physical casino.


And with mobile devices becoming such a ubiquitous part of our lives and many online casinos offering mobile versions of their sites, players can even play while taking the train to work.

Besides accessibility, online slots easily carry more advanced features, graphics and sound effects than land-based video slots.

Without the constraint of physical space, online gambling portals can also offer a virtually endless variety of slots to players – from classic 3-reel slots to more advanced 5-reel options with bonus rounds, featuring themes such as old skool, classic, adventure, culture, fantasy and more.

The perks of online slots

There are numerous reasons why many players favour online slots over the traditional ones. Besides providing the convenience of playing from home, online casinos generally offer higher payout percentages than land-based casinos.

The allowance of more paylines and more reels in video slots means more complex winning combinations, which translate to larger prizes and progressive jackpots for players.

In addition, these games appeal to individuals who prefer additional features such as bonus rounds that classic slot machines simply do not have the means to offer.

It is also worth noting that playing online allows you to take advantage of various bonuses, promotions and even tournaments offered at the online casino of your choice. And then there are loyalty points and cashbacks to gain too. These are all benefits that are commonly unavailable at land-based casinos.

As for those who want to play for fun without placing any bet, you can often enjoy some free spins with online slots.

Are you an old soul who prefers classic-style slots? Fret not, because you can find those at online casinos too. With so much versatility, it is no wonder that slots remain the mainstay of casinos all over the world.

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