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Slot Machines - Where Did They Get the Idea?

Author: Dolly Gambler

Slot machines are synonymous with gambling; we all know that. And we also know that when it comes to gambling collectibles, slot machines are very high on the list.

When you talk about slots, you are talking about a game that means more to the casino operator than any other game. It is also an iconic part of pop culture, and for that reason alone it is well worth exploring.

So how did the slot machine come into existence, and how did it get to where it is now?

That answer goes back a long way.

The company that brought the slot machine into being was Sittman and Pitt, which was located in Brooklyn. Their first machine, which they developed in 1891, had five drums (which would be the equivalent of reels as we know them today) with the faces of fifty different playing cards. In effect, it worked a lot like a game of five-card stud poker.

This was not designed specifically as a gambling game; instead, the operators of the hospitality establishments that hosted the machines made the determination as to whether money was going to be paid out, and how much. Clearly, it could fit in well with the gambling theme, and if you want to get technical about it, you could say that these early devices more resembled the video poker games of the future than what we recognize today as slot machines.

Sittman and Pitt came to realize that patrons of bars and restaurants around New York City, where they concentrated their sales, loved to try their luck, and the run of popularity continued. Even though these devices were not known as "slot machines," they are important in that they did set the template for games of their type, and allowed for other developers to take the ball and run with it. Indeed, the company's "first mover advantage" didn't mean much when other manufacturers came up with bigger, better inventions, including, yes, slot machines themselves.