More than spinning reels – the amazing evolution of slot games. 

Fancy a flutter at the casino? Whether you visit a real-world one in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, or you simply log onto one in cyberspace via your phone, the first thing you are going to see is slot machines. Lots of them. In an online casino, there might be hundreds to choose from.  

They have come a long way since the first one was invented in the 1890s. Let’s briefly chart their evolution, then see what different sorts of slot games are out there today.

Automatic poker machines and the Liberty Bell 

In the late 1800s, Brooklyn-based engineering company Sittman and Pitt invented a coin-operated machine that would display a five-card poker hand at the pull of a lever. The machine had 50 cards, and the 10 of spades and jack of hearts were typically removed, drastically reducing the odds of a royal flush. Winning hands would be rewarded at the bar with non-monetary prizes such as a drink or a cigar. 

Inventor Charles Fey had the idea of simplifying the concept to three reels each of which had five symbols. This meant far fewer possible combinations, so the machine could automatically pay out. The highest value symbol was the bell, and so the name Liberty Bell was adopted. The public loved the concept, and Fey would have become a millionaire if he had thought to patent the design. As it was, dozens of imitations flooded the market in a matter of months.   

Slots go electric 

The subsequent decades saw enhancements to Fey’s initial design, but the basic principles remained unchanged till the 1960s. In 1964, Bally went electric months before Bob Dylan, and to far less controversy, when they released a game called Money Honey, which was operated entirely electronically. Initially, a lever was still used to spin the reels, but as electronic became the norm, this was gradually superseded by the button we see today.  

In the late 1970s, the first video slots started to appear, introducing games that were the precursors to the ones we play today. The first ones simply replaced physical reels with images of reels on a screen. But the concept of video slots opened the door to special effects and features like bonus games, scatters and exploding wilds. 

Slot games today – from hot drops to cluster slots 

In recent years, plenty has been done to build on those initial concepts from the first video slots. The idea is to make slot games a more immersive and varied experience. But let’s be honest, nothing grabs the attention more than the potential for a seriously big jackpot win. Hot drops are a new type of casino slot that offers bigger payouts by adding extra jackpots that must be won in a certain time. These hot drops tips provide more information and some insider hacks.  

The competitive nature of today’s online slots market has driven further innovation. Some developers are challenging the notion of reels entirely with a new form of slot games called cluster slots. Instead of matching symbols in a line, these simply need them to land next to each other. Clusters can grow to any size and take any form – games like Reactoonz show what is possible. 

Conceptually, clusters represent the biggest change in slot machines since Charles Fey replaced poker hands with fruit symbols – but you can bet there are plenty of other exciting innovations just around the corner.