Slot machines were first incorporated into casinos as a way to entertain women and more mature casino visitors. They were seen as a sideline, played by people who would never make money, like the high rollers at the blackjack and craps tables. Now customers who play slot machines are the mainstay of the gambling scene. Let’s find out more.
The father of slot machines
In the US, a machine was developed in 1891 that used 50 of the 52 cards in a poker game to challenge players to form a poker hand. It cost a nickel to play, and while it grew in popularity, there was no way to standardise the payouts for all the different winning combinations—this meant that the prize for winning varied from bar to bar.
Then, in 1895, a man named Charles Fey created a three-drum machine with five symbols. This made it much easier to standardise payouts by the number of combinations. It was not until 1963 that the first electronic slot machine was born. Then, in 1976, the video slot machine was invented with a 19-inch colour screen and Sony logic boards, which proved to be more reliable than mechanical parts, cheaper to manufacture, and less prone to fraud.
We’ve come a long way since the early days.
Slots were originally simple machines with only four mechanical parts: entrances for coins, hoppers, reels, and levers, of course. Today’s machines are manufactured with over a thousand individual parts, and their design and construction are part of a complex process that can involve hundreds of people from start to finish. Charles Fey wouldn’t know what to think of today’s bill validators, random number generation software, touchscreens, and 3D animations. Or the ability to link machines to computer programmes such as online bingo and online scratch cards.
Casinos make most of their money from slots.
Turn the clock back to the 80s. Slot machines were set up in high-traffic areas of casinos—usually in hallways or near elevators. The reason was simple: casino managers needed to provide some form of entertainment for the wives and girlfriends of serious gamblers who played high-stakes games such as blackjack or craps. Since these wives and girlfriends did nothing but spin their wheels while their husbands gambled, the distraction had to take up as little casino floor space as possible. But from the moment they first appeared in casinos, their popularity started to grow, as did the amount of money they brought in. In 2003, they accounted for 70% to 85% of casino revenue.
You play online in the same way as on land-based machines.
Both land-based and online slot machines use programmes to generate random numbers. The main difference between online casinos and land-based clubs is the technology they use to access the results; online versions use animation that sends your results to your computer over the internet. Otherwise, they are quite similar. The other difference when you play online is that you can easily switch between games.
There are no winning strategies.
There are plenty of “insider” theories about how to win more often. Some even claim that they can predict payouts based on the symbols displayed while not in play—a theory referred to as the “zig-zag” system. This theory just isn’t true, because the roles are just for show. Your results are determined by the random number generator in the machine, and, of course, today’s machines have no mechanical parts. Another popular theory claims that it is possible to tell if a game is hot or cold. This is based on the belief that machines can keep track of how many jackpots have been paid out and when the last jackpot was paid out.Don’t worry about these so-called strategies. There is no way to increase your chances of winning-it is a pure game of chance. Although there are no strategies per se,
jackpots can compete with those of the national lottery.
This is certainly the case with progressive jackpot games — the size of the top jackpot increases with every spin of the reels. There are three types of progressive slots: standalone (the jackpot increases when you play on an individual machine), local area (the jackpot increases when you play any number of network machines), and wide area progressives (similar to local area progressives, but these can be played in various casinos with jackpots that pay out millions of pounds and can be compared to lottery games).
Refunds can exceed 90%.
Payouts tend to vary widely between casinos, but both online and land-based casinos have paybacks of around 90%. This is called “return to player” (RTP) or “payback percentage” (PBP). This high payout percentage is partly due to the competitiveness of the markets.
Famous machines are hugely popular. An
increasing number of celebrities are entering the scene by licencing their resemblance to the popular casino game. These include pop princess Britney Spears, who has lent her image to a long list of merchandise. The same goes for hotel heiress Paris Hilton. There are real Hulk Hogan and Arnold Schwartzenegger machines and a range of Dolly Parton machines that treat you to some of the singer’s catchphrases as you play. TV personality Ellen DeGeneres now has her own brand of machines in Las Vegas and has even made surprise visits to casinos to play a few rounds with excited selfie-taking customers. Themed slots include The Hangover, Happy Days, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. But watch out for this space-there’s bound to be more to come!
Japan is number 1 in the popularity stakes.
If you want the vacation of a lifetime and you have a hefty travel budget, go to Japan. According to the Gaming Technologies Association, slot machines are more popular in Japan than anywhere else in the world, including their country of origin – the United States. Japan has a whopping 4.6 million machines (that’s one for every 28 citizens), compared to the US with about 900,000 machines (one for every 357 citizens). Italy is in third place with over 400,000, Germany is fourth with just under 300,000, and Spain is in fifth place with over a quarter of a million machines (that’s one machine for every 187 Spaniards).