How do slot machines really work?


Slot machines are arguably the most common game of chance. And it’s no wonder – with so many varieties available to play at both online and land-based casinos. 

No matter where you prefer to play, whether that be at brick-and-mortar venues or enjoying Slots online, it’s important to understand how the machines work.

A brief history

First, let’s look back in time to some of the very first slot machines. 

Forms of slot games have been around for over a century, with origins tracing back to the late 1800s. 

The very first slot machine emerged in 1891, courtesy of a New York-based company called Sittman & Pitt. This pioneering machine featured five drums and 50 playing card faces. The objective was to align Poker hands across the reels, despite the reduced deck.

Between 1887 and 1895, Charles Augustus Fey also introduced the first mass-produced slot machine, dubbed The Liberty Bell. This machine marked the advent of automated payouts, made possible by simplifying gameplay to three reels and fewer symbols.

Unpatented, Fey’s design paved the way for similar machines, which, when gaming was banned, helped bring about the era of fruit machines.

Then, in 1964, a company called Bally unveiled the first electromechanical slot, with the reels powered by a motor, but retaining the familiar lever for activating gameplay.

Over time, the lever gave way to a button, and video Slots soon emerged on the scene.

The years 1994 and 1996 witnessed the development of the first online casinos. Whilst table games were the first to become available, it didn’t take long for video Slots to follow suit. The digital age of fast-advancing technology then brought about enhanced graphics, bonus features, and a diverse array of themed games.

The inner workings

The very first slot machines operated using a straightforward spring and lever mechanism, which set the reels in motion when pulled, eventually bringing them to a halt and revealing the outcome.

As digital and video Slots developed, computer software called a Random Number Generator (RNG) was introduced to keep games fair. RNGs have no memory, and produce an unpredictable combination of numbers and symbols every single second – ensuring outcomes are as random as possible. 

No matter the theme of the slot, the graphics, bonus features or symbols, an RNG is the trusty software working behind the scenes of all digital slot machines.

The second you press ‘spin’ is the very second an unpredictable outcome is decided and delivered. 

The future of Slots

Having undergone so many technological changes in the past years, it begs the question: what does the future look like for slot machines?

Well, with so many unique themes and variations available online, we can only assume that developers will continue adding features like cascading reels or creating more hybrid games like Slingo. 

Whilst the simpler, classic fruit-themed games are still available to enjoy both online and at land-based venues, there are lots of other slot game variations to choose from. It’s likely this repertoire will keep on growing as technology continues to evolve.