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How long do you think that slot machines have been around? Thirty years? Maybe, fifty? How about one hundred and twenty-five years?!
A Californian man named Charles Fey invented the first genuine slots machine around 1887. It was an improvement of a design by Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York. Their version contained five drums each containing ten playing card values. By inserting a nickel and tugging the lever, players could spin the reels and if they landed a decent poker hand, they could win a free beer or even a free cigar (hence the saying for a near miss – ‘close, but no cigar’).
(NOTE: If you’ve ever wondered why so many online slots contains playing card symbols, usually from nine to ace, then the above should answer your question. Also, the original slot machines used in Australia maintained this poker motif – which is why to this very day ANY slot machine down under is known as a “pokie”).
The clever Mr Fey re-designed the slightly cumbersome Sittman and Pitt device by reducing the number of reels to a more manageable three, and removing the playing cards and replacing them with symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and a Liberty Bell. Fey also designed an automated pay-out system, meaning punters no longer had to attract the attention of the barman if they struck lucky.
The Bally company (whom are still big players in both the real-world and virtual-world of online slots to this very day) were the first to add electronics to their slot machines. Mechanical slot machines had a habit of jamming, so by adding electronic controls the chances of mechanical failures lessened considerably.
The next big jump in slots tech arrived in 1976 with the release of the first video slot. This slot, which was installed – unsurprisingly – at a Las Vegas hotel, held a nineteen inch Sony color receiver as opposed to having reels. Video Slots soon swept across the Las Vegas Strip like wildfire. The company who made the first video slot – Fortune Coin Co. – were bought by IGT in 1978, and IGT remain a huge name in the video slots market (both real world and virtual world).
Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web on the evening of the 6th of August, 1991, and on the morning of the 7th, the first online casino was created. Okay, so that’s not strictly true (‘strictly’ as in ‘not at all’), but it only took Microgaming four years before they opened the fledgling internet’s first virtual world wagering establishment.
Online versions of slots games soon became part of Microgaming’s casino offerings, but no one really knew if they’d be successful or not. This question was answered when the company released ‘Cash Splash’, the first online slot with a networked progressive jackpot. Suddenly, online slots became as viable a way of earning a huge sum of cash for very little outlay as playing the lottery or buying scratch cards.
Progressive jackpot values on online slots have continued to rise in value ever since the advent of Cash Splash. In September 2013, one lucky guy playing online at Spin Palace celebrated an incredible £3.7 million windfall when he struck hyper-lucky with Microgaming’s ‘Mega Moolah’ online slot.
Online slots are by far the most popular online casino activity there is, mainly because very few other internet casino games offer the possibility of such high returns for such a small outlay, despite the house having a more significant edge over the player than with table games such as blackjack and baccarat. You could win a $1 million dollar jackpot for just $1 on online slots – doing the same on say, blackjack, would require an incredible amount of luck and probably several years of grinding.
Slots generally have an RTP of between 90 and 96 percent. RTP means ‘return to player’ – i.e. the money you expect to win if you play a slot machine for a reasonable time. As an example, Playtech’s ‘Iron Man 2’ slot has an RTP of 95.98%. This means that if you played the slot and spent $100, at the end of your session (on average) you’d expect to have $95.98 remaining – a net loss of $4.02.
Slots also offer a lot of variety, with bonus games, special features, free spins and jackpot wins. Some of the latest ‘3D’ video slots from software companies like NetEnt and Betsoft offer cinema-standard animations and just look wonderful.
Online slots are also easy to port to mobile platforms like iOS and Android, especially with advances in HTML5, mobile processing power and browser technology. Players can liven up those dull bus and train journeys with a few spins on the likes of Gonzo’s Quest, Starburst and Jurassic Park.
The world of online gambling is a financially attractive one – according to the UK Gambling Commission online gambling generates over £6.3 billion a year – and online slots play a huge part in that, so it certainly looks as if they are here to stay.
If you’re not yet into online slots, then why not give a few of the games listed here a quick trial spin? You’ll soon discover how fun they are, and you could find your bank account swelled with a fair amount of ‘Mega Moolah’ if you strike lucky.