Casino games, and especially slots, are so readily accessible in digital format these days that we sometimes forget they came from very mechanical beginnings. The accessibility of games on your mobile or your desktop is so commonplace that the old fashioned one-armed bandit is a distant memory. But the history of gaming is a long one, and as with any industry, is reflected by some rather interesting legal changes as well.
When slot machines were first developed they were mechanical devices operated by a lever that caused the reels to spin and settle at random. The games went through a number of versions due to the constraints of the mechanism itself. For example the original machines had 5 reels, but 3 reel machines became standard, as they were easier to produce. However, a three reel machine was less popular as payouts were less due to the limited permutations of the reels. Manufacturers began offering higher payouts, but to balance risk would weight certain symbols so the likelihood of their appearance was limited.
Weighted machines became a legal grey area as they deliberately unbalanced the odds and the game was no longer one purely of chance. Legislation preventing the use of weighted machines caused manufacturers to start looking for more advanced ways to offer an exciting payout without exposing themselves to more risk.
In the 1980’s, with the advent of computerisation, game creators saw an opportunity to resolve both issues. In 1984 Inge Telnaes received a patent for a device titled, “Electronic Gaming Device Utilizing a Random Number Generator for Selecting the Reel Stop Positions” (US Patent 4448419). This patent was the very beginning of digital casino games, and marked a significant change in the future of slot machines.
It wasn’t long before computerisation completely removed the need for any moving parts. With the option of erasing the mechanism, digital slots came into being, and physical reels became a thing of the past. Digital slots meant that a much more complex game could be created with many more options. Slots began to payout more than one line, and 5 reels became standard, rather than the old three reel machines. In fact, the need for the look of the reels themselves, or even the one-armed bandit style slots with a physical handle, became more a matter of history and tradition than necessity.
Digital slots revolutionised the industry and when these games went online they once again evolved and moved with the times.