Charles Fey invented the slot machine in the 1890’s. He probably never envisioned that his creation called the “Liberty Bell” would evolve into the most popular form of casino gambling today.
The slot evolution however had a lot of growing pains as many in the United States viewed gambling as a social ill. By 1910 all legal gambling activity was shut down,which left horse racing as the only legal entity in America.
During the 1920’s prohibition era, the public’s thirst for gambling matched that of booze. Slot machines along with alcohol were found in “Speak Easy’s” throughout America, many of them controlled by Organized Crime. After prohibition ended underground casinos remained active.
States began to crack down on illegal casinos and began to seize and destroy gambling equipment, including slot machines. Mayor LaGuardia of New York City called them “mechanical pick pockets”, destroyed them with a sledge hammer, and dumped them into Long Island Sound. (You can watch the action on YouTube.)
In 1931 Nevada legalized gambling. Slot machines populated the floor in the states’ casinos but were there only to amuse the wives and mistresses playing their pennies and nickles while the men did all the heavy gambling at the tables. (A portrayal of this is depicted in the 1952 movie, “The Las Vegas Story” with Vincent Price, Victor Mature, and Jane Russel.) Slots remained a “ladies” game until Atlantic oilshalegas City legalized gambling in 1978.
Bally Manufacturing invented a unit powered by electricity and slots began to “light up” and produce various sound effects. When multi-coin acceptors were introduced, new dollar machines meant larger jackpots for customers. When the Random Number Generator was invented top prize amounts could be increased on four and five reel versions. A spin button became an alternative to the handle.
The Indian Gaming Act was approved in the 1980’s which allowed casinos on reservation land and newly legislated dockside riverboat gambling attracted new slot players while racetracks added the one arm bandits..