Slot machine games have their modern roots reaching back to
the late 19th century with poker machines and the 3-reel
Liberty Bell slot machine. Both were the predecessor of
video poker games and slot games as we enjoy them today.
Even the plums, oranges, bells and bars on slot machine
games we see in casinos all over the world can be traced
back to that time period. And they began with the effort to
sell chewing gum to the public.

Herbert Mills, owner of Mills Novelty, introduced the
Liberty Bell Gum Fruit machine that was a gaming device with
a gum dispenser attached to it in 1910. Mills had been
making gum vending machines since 1898 so the Liberty Bell
Gum Fruit machine was a natural transformation for him. The
gum flavors that were lemon, orange, plum and spearmint were
used as symbols on the reels. The bell, which was the symbol
of the highest payout possible on the original Liberty Bell
device created by Charles Fey, stayed with this version. The
bar symbol was actually a picture of a stick of gum that
came out of the packets of gum dispensed by the machine. In
that same year, Mills came out with the Operators Bell
device, which substituted a cherry cluster for the spearmint
symbol. Even though the reel strips for the devices had a
copyright by Mills, competitors “borrowed” the format. Other
manufacturers such as Caille and Watling not only used this
format, but added apples, pears, pineapples and strawberries
to their versions. Eventually the English branded them as
“fruit machines”. Mills added the watermelon symbol to the
reels in 1937.

Reel symbols catch the eye of the player, but why do people
play slot machine games at casinos? People enjoy gambling
for a number of reasons. For one, many like the fun of
gaming regardless of whether they win or lose. Most enjoy
this during vacations or on business trips. And winning
while playing can’t be discounted because people hope for
some monetary gain in the short run at the casino. Plus the
excitement of the casino adds to the reasons why people
gamble. Sights, sounds, the presence of millions of dollars
combined with lavish mega-resorts with exotic themes are in
themselves a stimulating environment. Also, relaxation is a
good reason as visiting a casino hotel can offer relief from
the everyday stresses of life. Guests receive lots of
pampering and get away from their daily routines during
their stay.

Understanding the needs and motivations of players has
stimulated slot machine game manufacturers to keep coming
out with new and fresh ideas. Over the years, as technology
evolved, so did their results. During the mechanical age
(1890’s to 1920’s), the types of games available were
variations in regular slot and draw poker machines. Very
little did change over the next few decades for slot machine

In the 1970’s, Fortune Coin led the change in the landscape
of gaming by introducing the first full-color multi-line
video slot machines and the first full-color video poker
machines to the gaming industry. Solid-state circuitry began
to replace the mechanisms of slots and allowed new games to
be played. International Game Technology (IGT) soon after
purchased Fortune Coin. The level of benefit and success of
that acquisition is seen today as thousands of “Draw Poker”
video machines were placed in casinos and bars throughout
Las Vegas and other cities, capitalizing on the popularity
of poker machine games that began in the early 1890’s.

The 1980’s saw a move from solid-state circuits to
microprocessors, which allowed new directions for games. One
was the giant jackpot carousels like the Hilton Hotel’s
“Pot-O-Gold” which linked machines together and created the
opportunity to win million dollar jackpots. In 1986, IGT
introduced a statewide “Megabucks” progressive slot system
in Nevada which combined microprocessor-powered gaming
machines with modern communications in order to link gaming
machines across the state. This allowed players the chance
to win multi-million dollar jackpots. With the 1990’s, the
multi-game machine came into being giving the player a
choice of playing spinning slot reel games, a number of
poker games, keno, and video blackjack on one single
machine. Other advancements during this time period

  • Multi-hand video poker games like IGT’s “Triple Play
    Draw Poker” which gave the player the chance to play
    multiple hands of poker in a single play
  • Interactive bonus games which have become standard on
    video slot games
  • Multi-denominational game play allowing
    a choice in the amounts wagered per game

Today, gaming manufacturers are continuing to find new ways
to heighten the player experience. At the time of this
writing, Bally’s has created the “Hot Shot Progressive”
which takes 5 of their most popular slot games and places
mini-versions of them on the machine. When the player gets
the bonus round, they can play these mini-versions to have a
chance to win up to five progressive jackpots on the same
game. WMS Gaming has come up with a “Powerball” themed slot
game in which a player can win up to 9 jackpots with one
spin. And in the Blue Lagoon version of their “Hot Hot
Penny” slot game, the player can play a free spin bonus that
awards free spins at 3x pay, which can be infinitely
re-triggered. Plus in the Hot Hot Penny mode, the bonus
frequency increases by over 2x by re-spinning all non-bonus
symbol reels along with receiving additional free spins in
the form of bonus picks from 3 to 36 additional spins. These
are examples of how slot machine games and their creators
will continue an exciting legacy of innovation and
creativity, giving players new reasons to come back for

By Tom Howze
Tom Howze is a webmaster for sites that relate to the World Series of Poker with resources for Free Slot Machine Games and Online Casino Gaming.