Then and now: Bitcoin slots history


Many people are attracted to the possibility of a big win; that’s why bitcoin slots are one of the most popular games at both online and land-based casinos. Moreover, its eye-catching animations and colourful display have enticed players time and time again to spin the reels. 

However, the slots gaming scene wasn’t always all glitz and glamour since even this flashy world of symbols and jackpots had its humble beginnings. Find out how Bitcoin slots started and get the chance to learn some slots history from the cast-iron poker machines of the nineteenth century to the Bitcoin slots of the present here at Bitcasino. 

What is a slot game?

Slots is a casino game wherein players place a certain wager to spin the reels and potentially form winning combinations with the slot’s symbols on the paylines. This will reward them with the corresponding payout or trigger bonus features that will maximise their wins. 

To spin the reels, you must first place anywhere between the minimum and maximum wager and then either push the button for video slots or pull the lever for traditional slot machines. 

How slots started

Here is the timeline of the major developments slot games have gone through in the past decades:

Chicago, 1890
The development of the slot game was inspired by Five Card Draw, one of the most popular poker games ever. In 1890, Frank Smith first introduced a poker machine displaying five drums with playing cards in Chicago. A coin must first be inserted to pull the lever and spin the reels. If the reels stop at a winning hand, an attendant pays out the winnings to the player.
New York, 1891
In 19th century New York City, a company called Sittman and Pitt developed a game that had 5 drums with 50 playing cards in it. Their machine cost a nickel to play and was positioned across many bars in New York.

Players would insert their money and pull the lever to play. Payouts were given for lining up poker hands on the reels. In this version of the poker machine, two cards were removed: the ten of spades and jack of hearts, which increased the house edge and reduced the odds of getting a royal flush by half.

The heavy iron machine had no direct payout mechanism so rewards were paid at the bar in the form of free drinks and cigars.

San Francisco, 1895
An improvement on the design came from a German mechanic named Charles August Fey who was based in San Francisco. His slot machine had three mechanical spinning reels that had 20 playing cards featuring five symbols. This was the first appearance of the iconic symbols of horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and the Liberty Bell.

Fey’s heavy cast iron machine had a payout feature that soon became the standard model for modern slot games. Like its predecessors, the lever on its side is pulled to spin the reels. If the reels land on three bells in a row, it will reward ten nickels, which was the jackpot at the time.

The Liberty Bell symbol gained enormous popularity among saloon patrons and eventually among his competitors. His success was so overwhelming that he decided to open the Slot Machine Factory in 1896.

Charles Fey invented the trade check separator which was used in the Liberty Bell. The hole in the middle of the trade check allowed a detecting pin to distinguish fake nickels or slugs from real nickels. Fey then rented his machines to saloons and bars based on a 50/50 split of the profits.

Among Fey’s inventions were the 4-11-44 and Card Bell, two mechanical gambling machines that were equally appealing to the public just like Liberty Bell. He also built other slot machines called the Draw Power, Three Spindle and the Klondike.

Charles Fey’s innovative designs set the scene for the development of the casino slot gaming industry. Unfortunately, during the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, most of Fey’s original slot machines were lost. However, the original Liberty Bell machine survived and is now part of the Fey Collection on permanent exhibit at the Nevada State Museum.

Chicago, 1907
In 1907, industrialist Herbert Mills who was based in Chicago took advantage of the popularity of the Bell-Fruit Gum produced by Industry Novelty Co. and built his version of the coin machine with fruits as symbols. He called it the Operator Bell.

Another thing that was different in Mill’s machines was the payout. To avoid anti-gambling device laws at the time, the fruit machine gave out gum and sweets as prizes. By 1908, these bell machines were already popularized in smoke stores, bowling alleys, saloons, barbershops and brothels.

Chicago, 1916
In 1916, the Mills Novelty Company came up with the jackpot concept where the slot machine will eject all the coins inside it when a player lands a combination of certain symbols
Nevada, 1931
The slot machines survived the Great American Prohibition which was a time when gambling became increasingly popular even with the anti-gambling laws.

In 1931, the state of Nevada finally decided to make gambling legal, and just like that, the slot machines have found their new home in Las Vegas casinos. An American mob personality named Bugsy Siegal pioneered casino gaming when the first slot machine was installed at The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

Though the machines were originally meant to entertain wives of high stakes players, Siegal wanted to demonstrate to the casino industry that slot machines had the potential to become a true money-making business in the future.

Nevada, 1964
The tide turned when Bally Manufacturing Co. released the first fully electromechanical slot machine called Money Honey. It was automatic where the reels were electrically operated and had the biggest payout of 500 coins.

This was the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper but was still started by pulling the lever. At the time, players were already so familiar with pulling the lever to start the game that it had to be there.

Since 1930, Bally Manufacturing Co. has released more than 800 machines. Five of the most common slots were Space Invaders Pinball, Xenon, Mr. & Mrs, Pac-Man, Star Trek Pinball and Playboy.

Las Vegas, 1976
Fortune Coin Co. released the first video slot machine that was manufactured in California and approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission after cheat-proofing and modification. First made available in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, the game soon became popular in the casinos located on the Las Vegas Strip.
Chicago, 1996
Slots history reached another milestone with the release of Reel ‘em, a fish-themed slot machine by WMS Industries Inc. This machine was the first multi-line video slot with multiple paylines and a second bonus round.

When the bonus event is triggered, a separate screen displays the bonus game and players get the chance to win additional payouts. This development set the stage for the creation of video slot games that offered various themes and bonus games to make the gameplay unique and more rewarding.

Microgaming, 1996
The establishment of online casinos started with the first online gambling software by Microgaming in 1994. This gave players the chance to play casino games on their computers.

Less than a year later in 1995, CryptoLogic launched InterCasino. It is one of the oldest online casinos that still function to this day and the very first one to offer players the chance to bet real cash.

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Types of slots machines

Since its early beginnings, slot machines have come a long way; now, it is an industry that is responsible for around 70% of casinos’ income and takes up 70% of the available floor space in land-based casinos. 

Nowadays, slot games have crossed over to a new platform with online gaming, forever changing the course of slots history. Influenced by the internet that was spreading like wildfire in the 1990s, game developers started creating online slots as online casinos began to emerge. 

Find out the different types of slots machines throughout the years below:

Mechanical slots
The traditional slots are machines with a bright and flashing video screen that displays the spinning reels. The upper part that contains all the game’s components is called the bulkhead. Inside, you will see the audio amplifier, circuit board, speakers and the game counter that’s known as the Veeder. It is an electromechanical counter that keeps track of the coins going in and out of the machine.

Behind the reels are two circuit boards. One is to operate the digital scoreboard and the other is to illuminate the reels. The glass covering the reels also has an anti-tampering device behind it, whereas the buttons on the panel below the screen are for the different types of bets.

On the machine’s side is an arm mechanism you pull to spin the reels. This is also why traditional slot machines are popularly called the one-armed bandit. There is also a bill acceptor into which you insert paper money. When you win, the ticket printer prints a ticket that you can use to either cash in or feed into the bill acceptor to continue playing.

Land-based slots
Both mechanical and computer-based slots work the same way when it comes to spinning the reels to win. The simplest has only one payline where the player wins or loses when they form three matching symbols. On the other hand, a combination of symbols and blank space is usually a loss in mechanical slots.

Land-based slots have a physical button to press or a lever to pull on the slot machine. After the player presses the spin or pulls the handle, the reels spin for 5 to 6 seconds then stops to show the results.

The stop button will stop the reels earlier but it will still reveal the same results. The stop button has no influence whatsoever on the outcome from when it was first pressed. It only gives an earlier view of the already determined outcome.

Video slots
As technology advanced so did the features and gameplay of slot games. The rise of the online casino industry paved the way for the creation of video slots that allowed players to spin the reels in the comfort of their homes.

Online casino gaming also opened the door to various features and innovations that were once limited in physical slot machines. With video slots’ advanced system, features such as multiple paylines, mini-games, gamble features, free spins and special symbols are now available for players.

In fact, the cluster pay format was first introduced by NetEnt in their online slot ‘Aloha!’ It’s a unique payline mechanism where matching symbols must land in clusters to win. The bigger the cluster, the bigger the payout! This innovation by NetEnt has changed the conventional rules in the payline mechanism from left to right and vice versa.

Additionally, the graphics, animations and sound effects in video slots have also reached greater heights with the latest technology. Diverse themes featuring fantasy worlds, sci-fi storylines, action adventures and so much more are now included in slot games, making the gameplay even more immersive and entertaining for players.

You also have more chances of winning the jackpot in online slots since hundreds of players across the world can play simultaneously unlike in physical slot machines. Progressive jackpots, for example, work by taking a small piece of every bet to add to a prize pool that continues to grow until it is won.

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How does a slot machine work?

Slots, just like other games of chance, are all about having fun and enjoying the endless possibilities of winning. However, it doesn’t hurt your chances to learn all about how slot games work so you can improve your gameplay strategy and maximise your winning potential! Find out all about it here:

How reels work

In traditional slot machines, a reel’s blank spaces and symbols alternate, which means a blank symbol is followed by a space then another symbol and so on. These combinations make up the 11 symbols and 11 blanks or a total of 22 stopping positions on a reel. 

Slots machines are designed so that the reels can stop at any of the 22 positions. Inside the slot machine is a computer with one virtual memory for each reel that is used to determine stopping positions.

On the other hand, online slots have 64 or more stopping positions made up of the original 22 positions but spread out. 

The instant the player pushes the button or pulls the handle, a random number is kicked. This number corresponds to a position on the virtual reel. The symbol that the number corresponds to on the reel is where it will stop on. So if the random number is 01 on the virtual reel, the reel will stop on the first stopping position which would be a space. 

The reels on the slot machines do not determine the results of the spin. This is done by the random number generator and the virtual reel. In other words, the reel is only there to display the results that were already determined when the spin button was first pressed.

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Random number generator

Slots utilize a Random Number Generator (RNG) that generates hundreds of random numbers per second even when the machine is not being played. This determines the symbols that will land on the reels and ensures the randomness and fairness of the game.

The instant the player spins the reels, the random numbers at that moment are picked. Each of these numbers is used to determine the stopping position of one of the reels of the slot game. This means that with the RNG, the computer instantly knows the outcome and where each of the reels should stop, regardless of how long the reels spin.

The gameplay

There are three parts to every play in slot games: the denomination, credit and payline. The denomination is the value that each credit is worth. You can play a single credit on a single payline, or multiple credits on a single payline.

You can also play multiple credits on multiple paylines. Just keep in mind that the more credits and paylines are selected, the higher the cost of play. Pay attention to how much each bet costs after choosing your betting options.

Today, there are so many symbols and ways to win. The patterns of symbols have also multiplied along with the paylines. Paylines are patterns on the reel where matching symbols must land on to win. You can win by matching symbols horizontally, diagonally and even in a zigzag, where it is paid left to right or vice versa.

Moreover, the Megaways to win feature also offers hundreds up to thousands of paylines, giving players the opportunity to form multiple winning combinations and take home big payouts!

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