The humble land-based casino slot has changed since 1891 when it was first invented in Brooklyn, New York. Back then, the slot machine was based on poker, containing five drums and 50 card faces, and required a nickel to enable players to pull its arm.
The famous term “one-armed bandit” later followed, and to this day, gamblers can see slot machines in casinos with the famous pulling arm.
Very often this is simply for effect, however – casinos are doing away with the arm and instead rely on buttons, as well as computer generated effects to make casino-based slots more exciting.
Since online gaming came to the fore, land-based casinos have been presented with a challenge to keep punters interested and keep up with the pace of modern gaming.
While the first electromechanical slot hit casinos in the 1960s, the first online slot games began emerging in the 1990s.
The threat would begin to grow only stronger as gambling went fully mobile in the new millennium. Today, with mobile phones and tablets more or less designed for gaming first and communicating second, the iGaming industry has been revolutionised.
This helped to strip away the traditional rules of slot machines and bring in some exciting new developments. For one, there was no need to stick to the standard five-reel slot option; moreover, this also opened the doors to advances like bonus rounds, free spins and other games.
So, how are casinos working to counteract this threat?
One way in which casinos are trying to reel their customers back in is to use branding in their slot machines. Rather than just traditional slots featuring symbols such as kings and queens, they install slot machines which have been themed to a particular game show or TV show.
To date, the longest running and most popular land-based slot machine is Wheel of Fortune, a much-loved game show with amazing potential for bonus rounds. Similarly, shortly after the release of the hotly anticipated Sex and the City movie, a branded slot machine became available in 2009.
Land-based casinos are also recognising the potential of online slot games, and so again, to counteract this, they are using more advanced technology to maintain their customer base.
That’s why nowadays you’ll find slot machines with two video screens instead of one, upon which bonus features can be played.
Of course, video slots are nothing new – in fact, they date back to the 1970s. However, they became more advanced in the 1990s when a second screen was introduced.
To continue satisfying customers, modern slot titles strive to offer more bonus features, a different combination of reels and more incentives.
Land-based casinos offer a huge variety of slots in terms of branding, but they can always do more.
Katie Thompson is an NCTJ-trained journalist and freelance online gaming writer. She enjoys researching the iGaming industry and writing comprehensive guides on the history of gambling, beating the dealer and even how to get bingo dauber stains out of your favourite shirt.
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