History Of The One-Armed Bandit

Younger generations maybe don’t know too much about this name, but those who are in the casino world for decades definitely know that one-armed bandit is a sobriquet for old-fashion slot machines. Although they are not in use these days, these machines are hugely important for the whole casino history. Therefore, here is a brief history of the one-armed bandit.

First slot machines appeared in the late 19th century. At the time, poker was by far the most popular card game and designers started to think about making a poker machine for a single player. The first machine of this kind was designed by Sittman and Pitt, a small company from New York. As you may presume, the design was pretty basic. Behind the glass panel, there were five reels and each one had 10 cards mounted. Interestingly, there wan no lever on this original machine, but rather a plunger that you need to push down.

Also, this machine didn’t payout. If you win the prize, the prizes were usually passed by bartenders, considering that these machines were usually played in bars.

The first machine that automatically pays out appeared just a couple of years later. Yes, we are talking about the famous Liberty Bell, a machine that still can be seen in Las Vegas. Besides the ability to automatically payout, this machine also featured a simplified design. There were just three reels, while cards were replaced with five symbols. Also, this was the first time to see a slot machine to feature a lever. It featured a typical clockwork mechanism, so this would be the time when people started to use that “one-armed bandit” sobriquet.

Due to the great playing experience, these machines became popular around the world. In the early 1900s, many states and countries banned these poker-like games. The easiest way to avoid the law was to use different symbols. That was the time when all those fruit symbols appeared, along with Bell, Sevens and Bar symbols. Also, many machines started to use tokens instead of coins. They were usually of a similar size as coins, but with a whole in the middle.

In the next several decades, slot machines continued to evolve. However, the base design and mechanism remained unchanged for a very long time. Radical changes finally happened in the 60s and 70s, when first electro-mechanical machines appeared. With such design, slot machines brought a lot of new possibilities. Games were becoming more complex and more interesting to play. One of the biggest novelties was the so-called “nudge” button, which allows the player to shift one of the reels for one position, which in practice means more chances to win.

However, there is one huge downside of the new mechanism. Of course, we are talking about the lever, which did remain for some more time, but they served only to close the electrical contact of the machines. That amazing “mechanical” feel was gone and the lever soon became redundant. Soon after, the lever was replaced with a simple “Play” switch and that was the end of the one-armed bandit.

The growth of online casino turned the one-armed bandit into online slot machines. You could choose to register to a casino, or pick an online casino without registration (Known as Pay N Play) to get a much more vivid experience of online casinos.

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