October 4, 2023 by

Slots, Slots, Slots…Where Did You Come From?

To a certain extent, we take online video slots for granted.  Even the name of our site is Slots Play Casinos.  Some of the casinos we recommend have “slot” in their name such as Slotastic Online Casino, one of our favorite casinos!

So, let’s take a little time out to explore the history of slots.  Spoiler alert: Although a lot of casino gamers think that we are in the Golden Age of online video slots, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

All Hail Charles Fey

Charles Fey invented the slot machine in the late 19th century.  The first machine earned a nickname, Liberty Bell, because one of the symbols on the slot was the famous Liberty Bell that sits still to this day in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The first slot had other symbols as well including hearts, spades, and diamonds.  The first slot machine was an entirely mechanical device.  Gamers had to pull the arm to get the reels spinning.  There were also only three reels.

Has the Three-reel Slot Gone the Way of the Dodo Bird?

Well, yes and no!

These days, a lot of online casinos such as Slotastic, have a few three-reel slots as nostalgic, retro games.  Most gamers prefer five-reel slots and six-reel slots started to make an appearance in recent years.

There was one payline.  Players tried to get three symbols to align for a big win.  These days, we have as many as 1000 ways to win in slots.  Fifty paylines are common and 243 ways to win were revolutionary a decade ago and is by now quite common.

Do Only Online Casinos Carry Retro Slots?

Land-based casinos have a hard time keeping retro three-reel slots since few players play them and land-based casinos need all the revenue from slots they can get.  So, online casinos, the area of expertise here at Slots Play Casinos, can keep as many retro slots as they wish, and it won’t have any negative impact on the casinos’ bottom line.

In fact, a lot of online casinos tell gamers that they carry three-reel slots as a way to encourage gamers to join them!

When Did Slots Evolve into Modern Video Slots?

There is no exact answer to this question since modern video slots are still evolving!

The digital age for slots began in the 1970’s.  At the time, the term digital had not yet entered the common lexicon.  Even with the early changes digital afforded slots gamers, a lot of them preferred playing the mechanical slot machines.

Habits take a long time to stop and let new habits take over!

Did Online Casinos Feature Slots?

In the 1970’s, there were still no online casinos!  The first online casino came along in 1994 and featured video slots.

What Were the Early Online Slots Like?

In the early days of online casino gaming, the slots were what we might term immature.  The great graphics and animation of today had not yet been developed.

The evolution of slots into modern video slots was accompanied every step of the way by innovations in graphics and animation.

Online casinos used the games that had been developed for land-based casinos and adapted them to the new internet-based technology.  At every stage of development, gamers and casino operators alike are amazed at how much more interactive online slots have become!

How Do Digital Slots Work?

All slots now use a Random Number Generator to determine every outcome.  The RNG determines the outcomes of every game at online casinos while there are many games that are played live at land-based casinos.  These include blackjack, baccarat, roulette, craps, keno, bingo and others.

Slotastic carries these other games as well and all are run by the Random Number Generator.

The Random Number Generator is a kind of perpetual motion device.  It “stops” a pre-determined length of time after a gamer presses “spin” or “deal”.  The RNG can be calibrated to give whatever return to player rate the casino wants to give.  The return to player rate in the slots at Slotastic is generally about 97%.  The return to player rate at land-based casinos is closer to 90%!

Players at Some Land-based Casinos Use the RNG in Their Hotel Rooms

We are jumping a bit ahead of ourselves but there is a huge irony afoot at many land-based casinos which now offer in-house mobile gaming which means that all of the games people play at a land-based casino in their hotel rooms are run by the RNG!

Game Providers Discover the Wild Symbol

One of the biggest areas of continuous development in digital slots is the amazing way wild symbols are used now in slots.  Here are just a few of the ways wild symbols are used.

  1. Stacked wilds.  These usually stack three-high.  Sometimes stacked wilds cover an entire reel!
  2. Sometimes wild symbols stack across reels rather than vertically on the same reel.
  3. Sticky wilds stay on a spot for several spins.  In slots with sticky wilds, a lucky gamer will stock up on wilds as they stick across several spins.
  4. Travelling wilds are a type of sticky wild with the added feature of the symbol moving on every spin.
  5. Another variation on the sticky wild theme is the expanding wild.  Here, a single wild becomes two and so on until the expanding wild feature resets and starts all over.
  6. The most exciting use of the wild symbol is the exploding wild.  It does exactly what the name implies: it explodes and sends baby wilds all over the reels!

Game Providers Discover the Wide World of Slots Themes

The great innovations in the way the wild symbols work is because of great developments in graphics and animation.  This has also spurred game providers to explore the many avenues of telling a story in slots.

The themes in slots know no bounds!

Where there were once a small number of slots themes, today the developers are in strong competition to outdo each other.  Gamers benefit greatly from this competition as it makes online slots much more entertaining.

Game Providers Discover the Hidden Message in Vibrant Color Schemes

Here we have the new generation of digital slots in blazing color!  Just as color television was a revolutionary improvement in TV enjoyment, so the bursts and outbursts of color in slots are a revolution in the ways gamers can have fun playing at an online casino.

It reminds us of that great scene from Back to the Future when Marty plays Johnny B Goode and the guitarist whose guitar Marty had borrowed looks at the guitar in wonderment that that sound came from his guitar.


Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are the Next Big developments in Online Casino Gaming

Even as more and more gamers are coming to realize the many profound advantages of online casino gaming as opposed to land-based casino gaming, many players still travel to a land-based casino at least once in a while.

AR and VR will change all of that.  With AR and VR, a gamer can place him or herself anywhere they want to be.  They can play a slot based on ancient Egypt while “experiencing” ancient Egypt!

Slots Play Casinos will bring every new development to you in real time!


Laurie Renfield Picture
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Laurie Renfield has been part of the casino scene for both print and virtual media outlets for over two decades. Renfield's research focuses on both land-based casino entertainment and online casino gambling. She is dedicated to making sure that, regardless of where a player decides to compete, they'll achieve the best gambling experience and the most satisfying rewards.

Renfield's mantra for articles to share with our readers is to pick the most relevant and critical subjects for readers to ... [Read Laurie Renfield full bio]