JeffBet by Jennifer McFadyen |
Date of Publishing: 16 May 2023

4.8/5 - (10 votes)

Revolutionising Slot Machines: The Emergence of Video Slots in the 1970s


Throughout the first half of the early twentieth century, we saw the rise of the slot machine with the Liberty Bell slot which featured three spinning reels, one payline and an automated payout system. By the 1960s, the electromechanical slot was launched, and this quickly led to the development of video slots in the 1970s.

It was the launch of video slots that revolutionised the gambling industry. This then paved the way for the modern-day slot machines that we know today.

Early Slot Machines

The Liberty Bell is widely known as the first slot machine to hit the market. It was invented in 1895 by Charles Fey, and this was the first slot machine of its kind to directly pay out money to players rather than tickets that could then be exchanged for winnings. To win playing Liberty Bell, you only had to land three matching bell symbols on the single payline. Fey’s biggest mistake was that he did not file a patent for his invention and so others began to copy its design and launch their slot machines.

In 1910, the Operator Bell was launched by Herbert Mills and used a similar design to the Liberty Bell slot. However, what made this slot different was that it included the BAR symbol which has become a staple in slot games ever since. These slot machines were simple to operate. You pulled a lever and the reels started spinning. When the lever was pulled again, the reels came to a stop.

These slot machines had a huge impact on the gambling industry. Players can still see the effects of these slots today with many fruit, bar and bell-themed slot games released by the world’s top software providers.

The Emergence of Video Slot Machines

In the 1970s, we saw the development and first launch of the video slot machine. Fortune Coin Co, a Las-Vegas based company, developed the first video slot machine in 1976. Logic boards were used for the gaming functions, and a Sony Trinitron colour receiver was used as the display.

The Fortune Coin slot was eventually approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission after the company made tweaks to stop any cheating. It then became hugely popular in Las Vegas and the technology was bought by IGT in 1978.

The biggest improvement between the new video slots and the mechanical slots was the easy gameplay as well as the massive improvement in graphics and sounds. Video slots brought a whole new level of excitement to slot games as multiple paylines and more bonus features were introduced in video slot machines.


Popularity and Impact of Video Slots

After the introduction of video slots in the 1970s, they quickly grew in popularity and became one of the go-to games in casinos. This includes hugely popular slot games such as:

Video slots have arguably had one of the biggest impacts on the gambling industry in decades. Many of these land-based casino video slot machines made the move online. You can now find many of these games as online video slots.

While online video slots originally used the classic designs, and some still do, they have since evolved. Now, you can find any type of theme imaginable as an online slot including ancient Egypt, space, Irish, Mayan, animal and more. The quality of the graphics is now superb and you can expect sharp graphics with cool and unique themes. Progressive jackpots that are linked across lots of casinos on a network have also become hugely popular as they can pay out millions.

Criticisms of Video Slots

While video slots became hugely popular amongst gamblers, they did also receive some criticism due to the potential for addiction. Being able to gamble easily and continue to bet past your budget raised many concerns.

As the popularity of video slots grew, so too did the discussions around responsible gambling. In 1968, the first Gambling Act was introduced which aimed to regulate gaming, curb excessive profits and reduce the number of casinos. The 2005 Gambling Act followed which started to tackle online gambling and aimed to protect vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling.

A new gambling white paper was published in April 2022 by the UK Government. This proposes great betting limits on video slots and other types of slot machines. This would be a limit of between £2 and £15.

The Future of Slot Machines

As the technology improves, we consistently see new types of pay mechanics, sharper graphics, and more bonus features added to video slots. However, the online gambling market is always evolving.

Many are predicting that the future of video slots will be in virtual reality. This would see players put on a headset and walk into a virtual casino where they can, virtually, spin the reels of a slot game. There are some companies pushing this innovation such as Meta and Oculus VR but we are still some years away from this becoming the new normal in video slot games.

Skill-based games also seem to be a focus for new technological innovation in online gambling. Fantasy sport, in particular, has become immensely popular over the years as well as word games, arcade games and card games. Online casinos allow players to play against each other as well as against the house.

These new technologies will only help the online gambling industry to expand and grow into new audiences. Virtual reality, in particular, is a large area where online gambling and virtual casinos could be the next big thing. However, this new technology will also no doubt bring along new laws and regulations that could impact the gambling industry’s operations.


The Liberty Bell and Operator Bell slot machines became the blueprint for the first video slots in the 1970s. Fortune Coin Co. quickly became an international success and other gambling developers swiftly followed suit with their versions of this new and exciting video slot machine. These machines soon became staples in casinos across the world before moving online. Now, these games have every theme imaginable, a huge range of bonus features, the best quality graphics and many offer the potential to win large progressive jackpot prizes.

The impact of the first video slot machines can still be felt today as many online slot games still use the classic themes and payline structures. Video slots have become one of the most popular forms of land-based and online gambling. With the introduction of new technology such as virtual reality, we can only see the video slot game going for a while.

About the Author

Author: Jennifer McFadyen.

Jennifer, a Journalism and Communications graduate with a First Class Honours degree, has gained extensive experience in digital marketing and PR, both in-house and out-house. With over six years of expertise in the online casino industry, Jennifer possesses comprehensive knowledge of SEO in various areas such as online casino reviews, slots, blogs, gambling news content and more. Read More

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