Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. developed a gambling machine in 1891 which was a precursor to the modern slot machine. It contained five drums holding a total of 50 card faces and was based on poker. This machine proved extremely popular and soon many bars in the city had one or more of the machines bar-side. Players would insert a nickel and pull a lever, which would spin the drums and the cards they held, the player hoping for a good poker hand. There was no direct payout mechanism, so a pair of kings might get the player a free beer, whereas a royal flush could pay out cigars or drinks, the prizes wholly dependent on what was on offer at the local establishment. To make the odds better for the house, two cards were typically removed from the deck: the ten of spades and the jack of hearts, which cut the odds of winning a royal flush by half. The drums could also be re-arranged to further reduce a player's chance of winning.
The first one-armed bandit was invented in 1887 by Charles Fey of San Francisco, California, U.S.A, who devised a much simpler automatic mechanism. Due to the vast number of possible wins with the original poker card based game, it proved practically impossible to come up with a way to make a machine capable of making an automatic pay-out for all possible winning combinations. Charles Fey devised a machine with three spinning reels containing a total of five symbols horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and a Liberty Bell, which also gave the machine its name. By replacing ten cards with five symbols and using three reels instead of five drums, the complexity of reading a win was considerably reduced, allowing Fey to devise an effective automatic payout mechanism. Three bells in a row produced the biggest payoff, ten nickels. Liberty Bell was a huge success and spawned a thriving mechanical gaming device industry. Even when the use of these gambling devices was banned in his home state after a few years, Fey still couldn't keep up with demand for the game elsewhere.
Another early machine gave out winnings in the form of fruit flavoured chewing gums with pictures of the flavours as symbols on the reels. The popular cherry and melon symbols derive from this machine. The BAR symbol now common in slot machines was derived from an early logo of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company. In 1964, Bally developed the first fully electromechanical slot machine called Money Honey. The new electromechanical approach allowed Money Honey to be the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper and automatic payout, of up to 500 coins, without the help of an attendant.
The first video slot machine to offer a second-screen bonus round was Reel 'Em In developed by WMS Industries Inc. in 1996.
A person playing a slot machine purchases the right to play by inserting coins, cash, or in newer Ticket-In, Ticket-Out machines, a bar-coded paper ticket, into a designated slot on the machine. The machine is then activated by means of a lever or button, or on newer machines, by pressing a touchscreen on its face. The game itself may or may not involve skill on the player's part — or it may create the illusion of involving skill while only being a game of chance.
The object of the game is to win money from the machine. The game usually involves matching symbols, either on mechanical reels that spin and stop to reveal one or several symbols, or on a video screen. The symbols are usually brightly colored and easily recognizable, such as images of fruits, and simple shapes such as bells, diamonds, or hearts.
Most games have a variety of winning combinations of symbols, often posted on the face of the machine. If a player matches a combination according to the rules of the game, the slot machine pays the player cash or some other sort of value, such as extra games.
There are many different kinds of gambling slot machines in places such as Las Vegas. Some of the most popular are the video poker machines, in which players hope to obtain a set of symbols corresponding to a winning poker hand. Depending on the machine, players can play one, 100, or more hands at one time.
Becoming more popular now are the multi-line slots. These slots have more than one payline. Reel slots commonly have three or five paylines, while video slots have 9, 15, 25, or even 100 different paylines. Video slots are themed slots, with graphics and music based on popular entertainers or TV programs (The Addams Family, I Dream of Jeannie, etc.) with a bonus round. Most accept variable amounts of credit to play with 1 to 5 credits per line being typical. The higher the amount bet, the higher the payout will be. There are also standard 3 - 5 reel slot machines, of various types. These are the typical "one-armed bandits".
One of the main differences between video slots and reel slots is in the way payouts are calculated. With reel slots, the only way to win the maximum jackpot is to play the maximum number of coins (usually 3, sometimes 4, or even 5 coins per spin). With video slots, the fixed payout values are multiplied by the number of coins per line that is being bet. In other words: on a reel slot, it is to the player's advantage to play with the maximum number of coins available. On video slots, it is recommended to play as many individual lines as possible, but there is no benefit to the player in betting more than one credit per line with regards to calculating the payout amounts. There are some isolated cases where a video slot machine requires the maximum number of credits per spin to be inserted to win the largest payout, but those are the exception.
As an example, on the "Wheel of Fortune" reel slot, the player must play 3 coins per spin to be eligible to trigger the bonus round and possibly win the jackpot. On the Wheel of Fortune video slot, the chances of triggering the bonus round or winning the maximum jackpot are exactly the same regardless of the number of coins bet on each line.
Larger casinos offer slot machines with denominations from $.01 (penny slots) all the way up to $100.00 or more per credit. Large denomination slot machines are usually cordoned off from the rest of the casino into a "High Limit" area, often with a separate team of hosts to cater to the needs of the high-rollers who play there.
Slot machines common in casinos at this time are more complicated. Most allow players to accept their winnings as credits, which may be "spent" on additional spins.
In the last few years, new slot machines commonly known as "multi-denomination" have been introduced. In a multi-denomination slot machine, the player can choose the value of each credit wagered from a list of options. Based upon the player's selection, the slot machine automatically calculates the number of credits the player receives in exchange for the cash inserted and displays the amount of available credits to the player. For example, a player could choose to wager one dollar per game on a nickel slot machine. This eliminates the need for a player to find a specific denomination of a particular slot machine; they can concentrate on simply finding the machine and setting the denomination once they decide to play.
Recently, some casinos have chosen to take advantage of a concept commonly known as "tokenization," where one token buys more than one credit. A casino can configure slot machines of numerous different denominations to accept the same type of token. For example, all penny, nickel, quarter, and dollar slot machines could be configured to accept dollar tokens. This significantly reduces a casino's inventory costs and coin handling costs. A tokenized slot machine automatically calculates the number of credits the player receives in exchange for the token inserted and displays the amount of available credits to the player. When a player chooses to collect his credits (by pressing a "Cash Out" button), the slot machine will automatically divide the number of credits on the credit meter by the value of one token and return the result to the patron. Any remainder is known as "residual credits" and cannot be collected. Residual credits must be either played or abandoned.
Bonus is a special feature of the particular game theme, which is activated when certain symbols appear in a winning combination. In the bonus, the player is presented with several items on a screen from which to choose. As the player chooses items, a number of credits is revealed and awarded. Some bonuses use a mechanical device, such as a spinning wheel, that works in conjunction with the bonus to display the amount won.
Candle is a light on top of the slot machine. It flashes to alert the operator that change is needed, hand pay is requested or a potential problem with the machine.
Carousel refers to a grouping of slot machines, usually in a circle or oval formation.
Coin hopper is a container where the coins that are immediately available for payouts are held. The hopper is a mechanical device that rotates coins into the coin tray when a player collects credits/coins (by pressing a "Cash Out" button). When a certain preset coin capacity is reached, a coin diverter automatically redirects, or "drops", excess coin into a "drop bucket" or "drop box".
Credit meter is a visual LED display of the amount of money or credits on the machine.
Drop bucket or drop box is a container located in a slot machine's base where excess coins are diverted from the hopper. Typically, a drop bucket is used for low denomination slot machines and a drop box is used for high denomination slot machines. A drop box contains a hinged lid with one or more locks whereas a drop bucket does not contain a lid. The contents of drop buckets and drop boxes are collected and counted by the casino on a scheduled basis.
EGM is used as a short-hand for "Electronic Gaming Machine".
Hand pay refers to a payout made by a slot attendant or cage, rather than the slot machine. A hand pay occurs when the amount of the payout exceeds the maximum amount that was preset by the slot machine's operator. Usually, the maximum amount is set at the level where the operator must begin to deduct taxes. A hand pay could also be necessary as a result of a short pay.
Hopper fill slip is a document used to record the replenishments of the coin in the coin hopper after it becomes depleted as a result of making payouts to players. The slip indicates the amount of coin placed into the hoppers, as well as the signatures of the employees involved in the transaction, the slot machine number and the location and the date.
Low Level or Slant Top slot machines include a stool so you can sit and play. Stand Up or Upright slot machines are played while standing.
Optimal play is a payback percentage based on a gambler using the optimal strategy in a skill-based slot machine game.
Payline is a straight or zig-zagged line that crosses through one symbol on each reel, along which a winning combination is evaluated. Classic spinning reel machines usually have up to nine paylines, while video slot machines may have as many as one hundred.
Rollup is the process of dramatizing a win by playing sounds while the meters count up to the amount that has been won. Short pay refers to a partial payout made by a slot machine, which is less than the amount due to the player. This occurs if the coin hopper has been depleted as a result of making earlier payouts to players. The remaining amount due to the player is either paid as a hand pay or an attendant will come and re-fill the machine.
Tilt. In the old mechanical days, slot machines had tilt switches. While modern machines no longer have tilt switches, any kind of mechanical failure (door switch in the wrong state, reel motor failure, etc.) is still called a "tilt".
Theoretical Hold Worksheet is a document provided by the manufacturer for all slot machines, which indicates the theoretical percentage that the slot machine should hold based on adequate levels of coin-in. The worksheet also indicates the reel strip settings, number of coins that may be played, the payout schedule, the number of reels and other information descriptive of the particular type of slot machine.
Weight count is an American term, referring to the dollar amount of coins or tokens removed from a slot machine's drop bucket or drop box and counted by the casino's hard count team through the use of a weigh scale.
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