Mines Game Slots in the American Century
That year, the Industry Novelty Company started mass-producing machines in the style of Fey’s old Liberty Bell. Like everything else about the slot machine, fruit symbols were a necessity. The use of symbols in the shape of cherries, bananas, and grapes was an attempt on the part of Industry Novelty to disguise the gambling aspect of their game. Where Charles Fey incorporated horseshoe and bell symbols to cover up the game’s similarity to illegal card games, Industry Novelty turned to a pack of chewing gum.
Industry Novelty’s earliest slot machines were manufactured as “chewing gum dispensers.” Each of the game’s reel symbols indicated a particular flavor of chewing gum. The idea was that if you won, the game would dispense the flavor that correlated to the symbols you lined up. To make the subterfuge really stick, some games were produced that actually did reward players with chewing gum. Of course, the vast majority were altered after-market to pay out coins.
Slots in the American Century
Welcome to Las Vegas
The early 20th century was a time of much upheaval and change on the domestic front. Unfortunately for slot lovers and gamblers, the country’s general suspicion of gambling turned into full-bore gambling prohibition, so that by the year 1951, virtually all gambling in America was illegal. That changed in the 1930s, when the city of Las Vegas officially re-legalized gambling.
It’s fair to say that Vegas saved the slot machine, and (eventually) elevated it to the level of great art. The development of electro-mechanical slots in the 1950s gave slot designers the freedom to innovate, and innovate they did. New payout schemes, jackpot styles, graphic and audio effects, and features like coin multipliers were all added in the decade of the 1950s. Two decades later, Vegas was home to the world’s first video slot machines, games using simulated reels on a display rather than mechanical reels in a case.
At first, these new games were unpopular. Slot players were used to pulling a physical handle to initiate actual spinning reels. They wanted the classic sights and sounds, regardless of what great new technology was under the hood. Video slots were kind of a bomb at the time of their release.
An innovation in 1986 changed all that.
Not only did game designers get better at producing titles that would appeal to slots players, but they figured out a way to link slot machines at different casinos to create a massive progressive jackpot. These jackpots were a great advertising tool, soon handing out top prizes that far surpassed the old Vegas Strip jackpot records.
The creation of linked slot networks came just at the right time. In the 1980s, a new gambling audience was emerging. Younger, wealthier, and more image-conscious than the gamblers Vegas had grown accustomed to, these new gamblers often valued flash and style over tradition and substance. As video slot technology improved, and jackpots set new records on a weekly basis, slot machines became hip in a way that roulette and baccarat never could. Slot machines were already easy to play, inexpensive, and potentially very lucrative – the addition of video effects and progressive jackpots made them the state-of-the-art in gaming technology.