Love Them or Hate Them: 9 Interesting Facts About Slot Machines

Velvet Texture Background, Slot Machine Icon with Magnifying Glass Over It, Slots in Gold Banner
There’s no avoiding the slot machine. Loved by many, reviled by some, they’re undeniably part of the Las Vegas landscape. They’re available in all casinos (in person and online), beckoning the passersby with the siren’s song of coins hitting a bucket. Plus, there’s usually fairly loud music and some flashing lights.

Slot machines form the backbone of the casino, accounting for 80% of its revenue in some cases. Because of this, casinos are always trying to make new and innovative way for casino slots games to bring in gamers and gamblers looking for fun.

Given their importance to the casino, whether you would play them or not, let’s look at nine facts about the slot machine that even the most ardent slot-hater might find interesting.

Slot Machines Have an Interesting History

According to Wikipedia, the precursor to the slot machine was developed in 1891 in Brooklyn. This machine used 50 of the 52 cards of a poker deck and allowed players to try to make a poker hand for a nickel a game.

Black and White Photography of Charles Fey, Icon of Slot Machine Invented by Charles FeyWhile they quickly grew in popularity, engineering in the early 1890s had no good way to standardize the payouts for all of the possible combinations of wins. Therefore, your prize for winning at this machine varied from bar to bar.

All of this changed by 1895 when Charles Fey invented a three-drum machine with just five symbols. Mechanically, it was easier to standardize payouts on this number of combinations and the slot machine was born.

Oh, and also of note, the original five symbols were the suits of poker and the Liberty Bell, which can still be found in slot machines to this day.

The First Video Slot Machine Was Developed in 1976

The first electronic slot machine was invented in 1963, but it wasn’t until the grand year of 1976 that the first video slot machine was created on a 19-inch color screen and Sony logic boards. According to Wikipedia, the first video slot machines were installed in the Las Vegas Hilton before gaining immense popularity that has continued to this day.

Most, if not all, slot machines operating in the US are video slot machines. The computers inside the machine are less open to fraud, more reliable than mechanical parts, and generally cheaper to produce.

There Are $100 Slot Machines

Hundred Dollar Casino Slot Machines, Hundred Dollar Bills Spread Out
Typically, a slot machine will “spin” for a single credit, though betting more credits leads to a higher payout. The cheapest credit possible is a single penny and is actually fairly common, especially in more established casinos. On the other hand, the sky’s the limit on how much a credit might cost to purchase.

There are even reports that some machines may cost as much as $100 per play just to spin the wheels once. That’s a fairly high-risk scenario that should be backed up by a serious bankroll.

If that’s your thing, go for it, but for most people, a slot machine that costs around a quarter to a dollar per credit is much closer to the norm.

Penny Slots Are a Great Way to Stretch a Bankroll

If you’re at the casino and don’t have a lot of money (either because you started off with a small casino bankroll or because you hit a bad run of luck), play the penny slots or the closest thing you can find to them. Modern day video slots have a lot more in common with game apps on your phone than hardcore gambling. This allows slot machine designers to have their slot machines run for a while on each play.

Because it takes a while to watch the animation, make a few choices, or perform some other action, playing slot machines can be a much more drawn-out experience.

This is in comparison to the olden days of dropping in a coin, pulling the arm, collecting the payout, and repeat.

If this sounds dreary, it’s not. Modern slot machines are just as addictive as the apps they resemble, meaning you can get a lot of play for not much money and still have a good time.

Slot Machines Don’t Run Hot and Cold

Icon of Real Casino Slot Machine, Icon with Half Sun and Half SnowflakeIf said to the right person, this “interesting fact” might start a riot. Some slot machine aficionados swear they can detect when a slot machine is about to payout big and when a machine has gone cold. Sadly, there’s no such thing as a streaky slot machine, especially not in the age of electronic slot machines.

Everything inside that machine is controlled by a computerized random number generator. Each time you play, it generates a complex series of numbers according to its own perfected algorithm. Those numbers get turned into whether you win or lose.

This random number generator has been tweaked over time to promote a certain win percentage, so that it’s fair to the player and fair to the casino house edge.

Any win or loss streaks that the slot machine features is only the luck of the draw. Anything else would be too difficult to program into the algorithm and still keep things fair.

Slot Machines May Return Over 90% of the Money

Even though slot machines account for a significant amount of casino revenue, they still payout over 90% of the money they take in (sometimes as high as 94% percent). This is good news for the slot player.

Even though it’s fun to play video games at a casino, it’s even better when those video games pay off. Of course, just because the slot machine pays out at 90%, that doesn’t mean it pays that money out to you or at one time. A lot of that money is doled out in small amounts or put into a jackpot.

Slot Machines Owe Their Popularity to the Unlikeliest of Sources

American Flag Waving Background, George Bush and Ronald Regan
Slot machines, which are now legal in all but a handful of states, owe their popularity to two men—Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Both men increased taxes and forced businesses to find ways to generate additional revenue. While flat-out gambling like poker was definitely illegal, video slot machines could be reclassified as game rather than gambling. As it became acceptable to install video slot machines outside of casinos, their popularity continued to grow.

Slot Machines Are More Addictive Than Meth

Actually, we made that up. However, video slot machines are becoming increasingly more addictive (as are video game apps). In fact, since the 1990s, more people attend Gamblers Anonymous for slot machines than for playing poker.

The statistics on how quickly people become addicted to slot machines is frightening, as are the effects of a slot machine player’s addiction.

Not to be too much of a downer, but slot machine players who suffer gambling addiction are more likely to commit suicide than others with a gambling addiction. Therefore, be careful when you start to play, as the effects of playing can be incredibly severe if you can’t control your habits.

There’s Such a Thing as Slot Machine Pros

Guy on Computer Looking Over Paperwork, Computer Displaying Casino Slot GameIn case you are wondering, there are slot machine professionals. We find this to be an interesting career choice as much of playing slots still boils down to the little random number generator inside the machine. The generator is what decides if you’re going to win or not.

With that said, it is nice to know there are slot machine professionals out there to rate existing slot machines, discuss strategies for machines that offer a strategic component, and talk us through the odds of winning.

On the other hand, the general consensus on this is fairly strong: There really is no system to how you play your slots.

Remember what we said above about there being no hot or cold streaks with slot machines? Well, there’s no real system to guarantee huge profits when you play the slots.

They just don’t work like that.

Instead, be happy that you have a game to play, earn a little money on its payout, and have fun doing it. But if you’re spending $100 a pull, then you better hope you have luck on your side!


Slot machines are a lot more interesting than most people give them credit for. Next time you pass by the slots, even if they’re absolutely not your thing, keep in mind that those machines are paying for the casino. In fact, they’re probably paying out just enough to give someone a good winning story.