The history of gaming pokies machines is not quite as long as the history of other forms of gambling. However, slot machines are over a century old! Most of the advancement has however happened in the last 50 years. This blog post will walk you back in time when we only had mechanical pokies machines placed in pubs, barbershops and stores. It will later focus on the modern and more advanced online slot machines that can be played on the go.
The first slot machine was known as Liberty Bell and was developed in the United States by Charles Fey in 1895. Liberty Bell eventually found its way to the Australian gambling scene in the early 1900s. Back then, Australian law on gambling was far more buttoned-down than it is today, so much that Charles Fey’s machine was technically illegal. When entrepreneurs figured out that slot machines were highly lucrative, and the government of the day saw the likelihood of significant profits from regulation, licensing and taxation of these games, Liberty Bell was eventually legalized (1954), and so were similar machines and games of chance like traditional casino games.
In 1953, Len Ainsworth saw the business potential of slot machines, and he founded the company Aristocrat Leisure limited. The first Aristocrat gaming machine was designed by Joe Heywood and was known as Clubman and later replaced with the Clubmaster in 1955. For over 60 years Aristocrat Leisure Limited remained the largest producer of gaming machines in Australia. Today, the company is second only to the American company, IGT, in order of active poker machines in Australia.
The coming of Video poker machines in 1975 revolutionized the pokie machine industry. Video poker machines did not have any moving parts, unlike earlier slot machines. Lack of moving parts is considered as the biggest change in new features since Charles Fey had invented the Liberty Bell. The spinning of the reels now became computerized and was simulated using random number generator software and the results were displayed on an electronic screen. The first video poker machine was known as Fortune Coin, developed by Walt Fraley, and like other subsequent video poker machines, it was not popular with gamblers since most players did not trust the software when compared to the physical spinning reels. By 1979, video poker machines had gained acceptance and only then did the popularity of Video pokies began to increase. These days, all commercial Pokie machines in casinos are mostly Video Pokies
Before the 1980s (before video poker machines) all Australian pokies were made up of three reels of symbols. This meant we had either one, three or five pay lines. Due to the limited number of outcomes in these earlier machines, jackpots were smaller than the prizes we get at today’s land-based and online gambling places. Modern Video poker machines now have five reels meaning they also have many more lines and offer additional ways to win like the chance to win a free spin or a gamble option.
The availability of the games took a positive turn in the early 1990’s when several Australian States approved the use of video poker machines in pubs. This approval led to an increased popularity of the machines in Queensland (1992), South Australia (1994) and NSW (1997). Today, regardless of the casino you enter, be ready to find whole banks of video poker machines.