Slot machines are a cornerstone of the gambling industry today and provide land-based casinos with one of their most lucrative revenue streams. Both the history of American gambling and slot machines are intertwined. The first slot machine was made in 1895.
The Liberty Bell slot machine, designed and built by Charles August Fey was made available to the public for the first time in 1895. The Liberty Belle slot machine was named after the San Francisco saloon where it was installed. It became a huge hit with gamblers. Charles August Fey, buoyed by the success of his first invention, decided to start a new company to design and produce slot machines. Charles Fey and Company Inc would be the dominant company in the slot industry for 50 years.
The first half century of the 20th century was difficult for the entire gambling industry. It was marked by legal regulation. The first time that slots were made illegal was in 1909, when they were located in San Francisco. By 1911, the practice had spread throughout California. Charles Fey, a small group of slot machine manufacturers, became more creative in finding loopholes within the law. To ensure that their machines didn’t fall under the legal definition of a “gambling device” slot machine, manufacturers switched the symbols from gambling-themed cards to fruits and sweets.
Although the idea was certainly original, the authorities soon recognized the weaknesses in the legislation. The ‘State against Ellis’ case effectively banned all slots machines.
Despite legal restrictions, the slot industry continued to develop and grow, primarily in Nevada, where there were no restrictions on the gambling industry. The Mills Novelty Company rose to prominence due to its ability produce cheaper slots in lighter wooden cabinets. They created the slot ‘Castle Front,’ which became the symbol of the slots market in 1933.