one-armed bandit

This is a casino gambling machine with three or more reels which spin when a button is pushed, otherwise generally called a slot machine (because of the slots where coins are inserted). Slot machines are the most popular gambling method in casinos and constitute about 70 percent of the average US casino’s income.

Slot machines are known as one-armed bandits because they were originally operated by a lever on the side of the machine rather than a button on the front panel, and because of their ability to leave the gamer without a nickel to his name. Many modern machines are still equipped with a legacy lever in addition to the button.

Other names: fruit machine (British), puggy (Scottish), the slots (Canadian and American), poker machine (or pokies) (Australia, New Zealand).

In 1891, Sittman and Pitt developed a gambling machine which was a precursor to the modern slot machine. This machine proved extremely popular and soon many bars in the city had one or more of the machines. Players would insert a nickel and pull a lever, which would spin the drums and the cards they held, the player hoping for a good poker hand. There was no direct payout mechanism, so a pair of kings might get the player a free beer, whereas a royal flush could pay out cigars or drinks, whatever was on offer at the local establishment.

By 1895, Charles Fey devised the Liberty Bell, with a much simpler automatic mechanism and an effective automatic payout mechanism. Three bells in a row produced the biggest payoff, ten nickels (50¢). Liberty Bell was a huge success and spawned a thriving mechanical gaming device industry.

In 1963, Bally developed the first fully electromechanical slot machine, called Money Honey. It was the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper and automatic payout of up to 500 coins without the help of an attendant. The popularity of this machine led to the increasing predominance of electronic games, and the side lever soon became vestigial.

The object of the game, of course, is to win money from the machine. Larger casinos offer slot machines with denominations from 1 cent (“penny slots”) all the way up to $100.00 or more per credit. Large denomination slot machines are usually cordoned off from the rest of the casino into a “High Limit” area, often with a separate team of attendants to cater to the needs of those who play there.

I’ve watched people play the “slots” but have never played myself. If I’m going to gamble, I’d sooner use a deck of cards and a jar of pennies and play black jack!

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