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Operator Bell Ushered In New Era of Slot Machine Games
Author: Dolly Gambler
Charles Fey's slot machine game rapidly became popular and appeared in many a bar and restaurant. But as for their legality; well, that was another question entirely. Since Fey's device was the first one to pay off in actual coins, it ran afoul of gaming laws in some jurisdictions because that kind of transaction was prohibited. It did not amuse law enforcement that there was an little deception attached to it as well, as saloon keepers advertised that drinks went to winners, though it became clear that was not the case.
When it comes down to it, people want to gamble, and they did. With the evolution of slot machine games, and their increase in popularity, more sophistication in these devices was necessary.
Jackpots got increased, and customers had more incentive to play slot machine games.
The Liberty Bell machine, which continued to influence the industry for years, originally had ten symbols on each of three reels. With all of the winning combinations that were available, and the payouts that were made, a 25% margin was left for the house.
The Liberty Bell experienced a greater reach and distribution in 1907, as Fey combined efforts with the Mills Novelty Company to release the Mills Liberty Bell. Then the Mills people broke off and created the "Operator Bell," which doubled the number of symbols that were on each reel and, naturally, increased the amount of a possible jackpot. The Operator Bell was also the first slot machine game that offered fruit as symbols. Hence the nickname "fruit machines" that they have picked up in some circles. Fey could not obtain a patent to protect the design of a gaming device, so the Mills company was free and clear to do whatever it wanted and to reap the benefits. Eventually the Operator Bell not only became the most popular slot machine game, with over 30,000 built, it was also the most innovative of its time.