The slot machine, a popular game in casinos, was nicknamed the one armed bandit because it originally started out with a lever that the player pulled to spin the 3 reels within the casing. These reels each had 10 symbols that showed through a display window one symbol of each reel at a time. If 3 identical symbols showed at the same time as a result of one pull of the lever, the player won. The chances of this were slim so more often than not the player lost their money. This contributed to the creation of the nickname.
The very first slot machine, named the Liberty Bell, was created in 1895 by Charles Fey, an immigrant from Germany. The original symbols that were displayed on each reel consisted of playing card suits, a star, a horseshoe and a liberty bell. With the demand for slot machines high, an offer was made to purchase the rights to the production and distribution of these games of chance by a gambling supply company. However, Charles Fey refused to sell so new versions of the Liberty Bell had to be created. One of these new versions was built in 1907 by Herbert Mills and it was called the Operator Bell. He was the first one to use fruit symbols for his slot machine.
Each pull of a lever a player was taking a chance on losing there money so more and more its gambling nature began to cause problems for the manufacturers. Gambling was frowned upon as much as the sale of liquor so these machines became illegal by 1910. Some manufacturers tried to hide the use of these devices by making them seem like vending machines. The Bell- Fruit Company came up with a slot machine that dispensed sticks of gum with every pull of the lever. This didn’t work but instead made people view vending machines in a bad way. The anti-gambling views popularity began to be used by politicians to help with their campaign for office way into the thirties. Politicians would be seen smashing these machines to gain votes from those who despised gambling and saw it as criminal act. The famous criminal Bugsy Siegel added to the dislike of slot machines because he purchased a number of them to put into his hotel the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas. He put them into his hotel for a reason though. He was using them to keep the wives and girlfriends busy while their rich husbands gambled within his casino.
By the early 60’s slot machines had gone electric and by the 70’s microchips were added and the lever was removed by the 80’s with more improved microchips that allowed the slot machines to work with just the press of a button.
As time went by the view of gambling with slot machines has improved to some degree with its popularity increasing. In fact, slots have increased in popularity today so much it brings in about 80% of a casino’s income.
By Sarah James
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