Slot History

Slot machines have come a long way in the last twenty or so years, as all of us except the very youngest gamers will remember. Before the digital revolution of the nineteen eighties, the choice of slot machines offered to a gamer was a little like the choice of model T Fords offered to a new driver in the nineteen twenties: “any color you like so long as it’s black”.

The machines all looked and sounded more or less the same: a handle for the player to pull, a window that showed one symbol from each of three wheels such as a bar, a seven, or a gold nugget. The player put in a silver dollar, pulled the handle, the wheels spun round and came to a halt on the pay line one by one, clunk, clunk, clunk.

The player had a chance of winning by getting three in a row from the four or maybe five or six symbols, and the machinery was one hundred percent analog.

With the advent of digital technology, gaming psychologists discovered something that most of us have long suspected: that a seductive digital display with flashing lights and sound is irresistibly attractive to the mind of a player. Of course the old fashioned analog slot machines were also designed to be “addictive” but digital technology allows a far more comprehensive assault upon the senses.

The designers of pinball machines were the first to notice this phenomenon. The more sounds, colors, flashing lights and movement that the player was exposed to, the more “hypnotized” the player became. Studies were conducted between different machines being used by the same players, and gaming psychologists found that players spent more money on the more complicated machines.

So when digital technology opened up a whole myriad of new possibilities for slot machines, it made financial sense for the manufacturers and casinos to take full advantage of these new developments.

While the nineteen eighties saw the digitalization of casino slot machines, the nineteen nineties brought branding. First the features of the slot experience were changed but they remained within the same format of the traditional “wild west” style game with sevens, bars, etc.

But then later, slot manufacturers and casinos began striking commercial licensing deals with organizations such as Hollywood studios and creating themed slot machines using the new digital technology. Successful examples include the “Wheel of Fortune” deal with the famous television game show, and the “Titanic” slot machine (complete with realistic ship’s horn noises) based upon the hit movie of the same name.

The “Monopoly” machine based upon the incredibly popular depression-era board game has also been a big hit. Casinos have certainly been a part of the increasing commercial crossovers and co-ordinations between different segments of the leisure and entertainment industries that we have seen take place within the last decade.

One of the features of this recent expansion of the slot machine has been the increasing prevalence of the bonus game. Yet the question has to be asked, has the bonus game really added anything to the slot machine. In truth, the answer is both yes and no.

The answer is yes because the experience is made more exciting and enjoyable for the player and the spectator, yet the answer is also no because the advent of the bonus game has not actually moved the odds any further in the player’s favor than it previously was anyway.

Programmed winnings for the bonus game are just deducted from the main game, so the odds there actually reduce – although the player overall still enjoys the same odds. This may explain why some sort of reaction against the fad of the bonus game slots has been observed in the big casinos, with some players sticking to the more traditional types of machine.

So slot machines are, after all, still slot machines. The casinos have just found ways to make the machines more attractive which induces the average customer to stake more and more money, and in this enterprise the casinos have been proven to be successful.

The revenues from slot machines have been increasing steadily and still are today although the odds remain the same. The casinos have achieved this feat by two means. Firstly, new technology has made the machines more alluring to the senses.

This attracts more players to the machines and keeps them there as though they are glued to the machine for longer periods of time. Secondly, the reward systems within the games have been increased and made more complex so that the biggest jackpots can only be won by betting the maximum stake.

In other words many machines now will let you bet five or six times the minimum wager while in the past machines usually only let you bet double or triple that – if at all.

So how should you as a slot player relate to all these new developments? Well ask yourself honestly, do you play just to try to win the jackpot or do you have a little fun on the machines as well? Because the odds are pretty much the same whichever machine you choose to play.

Just know yourself and your tendencies and level of self-discipline. If you can play the flashy machines and you enjoy them you might as well provided you don’t let them make you gamble more than you can afford to.

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