Casinos have been around since the 17th century but the first one wasn’t opened in the USA until 1931. From the original card games and roulette, casinos now offer a myriad of different types of table games and gambling.

One of the favorite options in casinos is the slot machine. They have evolved from a basic, mechanical machine to the complex sophisticated designs of today. With thousands of titles available, slots are enjoyed by all types of players.

Here’s a look at their history, and how to find a good slot machine to play.

Slot Machines Today: Where We Are Now

Before we step into the past, it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider where slots are today. Although there are thousands of bricks-and-mortar casinos in the world, notably in places such as Vegas, Monaco, and Macau, there’s also a huge number of online casinos.

Not everyone lives close to a land casino, and there might be other barriers to play. Online casinos offer a virtual environment that is increasingly realistic, allowing players to have the same experience from the comfort of their own homes.

Slots are particularly popular in online casinos and it’s an industry that has rocketed in size. There are countless top developers regularly releasing new titles, such as NetEnt, Microgaming, and Yggdrasil, to name just a few. Without the same pressure on space, online casinos can offer players the chance to choose from a vast number of slots that are updated very frequently.

This wide choice means that you can take your pick of the best online slots around from leading developers. You might find that you particularly enjoy the slots that one studio produces. Or perhaps you prefer games in a certain genre such as Ancient Egypt, Norse gods or Ireland. There are even branded slots that follow on from top TV shows and movies. If you longed to line up alongside Antonio Banderas in From Dusk Till Dawn, now’s your perfect chance!

Online slots today owe a huge debt to the development of the past. If it wasn’t for the commitment to continue evolving the design, we wouldn’t have online slots today.

The History of Slots

The history of slots is much longer than you might expect, but the original machines looked very different from the modern digital designs.

The first slots were made in the 1880s but as they didn’t automatically dispense the cash winnings, they’re not generally regarded as a “true” slot.

Charles August Fey is generally regarded as the inventor of slots. Following on from the original design which required the prize to be claimed at the bar, Fey went on to create a machine that could manage its own payouts.

He managed this by simplifying the slot machine, reducing it to three reels and five symbols: a horseshoe, Liberty Bell, and the four playing cards suits, hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. The bell was the highest value symbol and as such, the machines quickly became known as The Liberty Bells.

Unfortunately for Fey, he didn’t patent his design and before too long there were many others being made. Although slot machines were made illegal in 1902, developers got around the ban by not including cash prizes. Instead, the Liberty Bells would payout prizes in sweets and chewing gum which corresponded to the winning symbols.

These early slots were mechanical and worked by the player pulling a lever. This created the traditional “one-armed bandit” design which was to become such a traditional sight.

In 1964, things started to change with the development of the first electromechanical slot. Players still needed to pull the lever to begin, but all of the reels were operated electronically. It wasn’t long before the lever was removed, and by 1976 the era of modern video slots began.

Fortune Coin released the first video slot in 1976, a company that would later be bought by industry giants. IGT. More video slots were brought into production and over the next 20 years, they became a common fixture in casinos all over the world.

In the mid-90s, slots were given a second screen for a bonus round for the very first time. However, slots were innovating in many other ways too, including their introduction to an online world.

The introduction of the internet opened up the possibility of online play, and very quickly these became popular. Today, there are thousands of online slots from a huge number of casinos giving players the feel of a real casino without ever stepping foot inside for real.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Slots

There are many different ways to choose the slot you want to play, but when you’re a complete novice not all of these will be obvious. You might choose a slot because of a recommendation, or because the design and name looked appealing.

However, there are other factors which you might want to consider such as:


The Return to Player, or RTP as it’s commonly known, is one of the most important measures for a slot. It measures how much a slot pays out when measured over a very long period of time. The higher the RTP, the more money the slot pays out in prizes.

The RTP is expressed as a percentage and generally, 96% or above is considered a decent score.

As an example, if a slot has an RTP of 96% that means for every £100 a player bets, they will receive on average £96. This may not sound particularly attractive but this is calculated over a very prolonged period. Your actual playing experience is likely to be very different. The RTP is just designed to allow you to make a comparison to find slots that payout more frequently (on average).


Although the RTP is important, you’ll also need to check the volatility. Sometimes referred to as variance, volatility describes how often the slot pays out.

A high volatility slot means that the wins come along less frequently but are likely to be for higher sums. In contrast, a low volatility slot will have regular wins but they’re more likely to be for lower amounts. This doesn’t mean that a low volatility slot won’t pay out a jackpot, but overall the prizes will be frequent and small.


Some slots include a jackpot payout which may be awarded randomly. Some types of jackpot are progressive which means the more you play, the higher the jackpot prize will climb. Read more about the type of online jackpots here.


Some people play on the slots just for fun, while others pursue it as a source of income. This means there needs to be slots which caters for everyone with both large and small stakes. All slots offer a betting range but some are more suited to those on a low budget while others are geared towards those placing high bets.

Check the minimum and maximum stake before you start playing if you’re hoping to bet especially low or high.