How much do you really know about the history of slots though? Such as who invented pokies, where did they originate and how did they become so popular?

It’s no secret that we love both mobile and online pokies for their fun gameplay, rewarding bonus rounds and outstanding visuals!

Not only do they fill up the scaled pockets of fellow Crocos, but they also bring people together and create a sense of community amongst players. How much do you really know about the history of slots though? Such as who invented pokies, where did they originate and how did they become so popular?

If you’re one of the many PlayCroco members who are in the dark when it comes to the history of these great gambling machines, this article will have the answers you seek. Brush up on your slot IQ and polish off your knowledge on all things related to pokies. Then, put your newfound understanding to the test by chomping down on our latest online pokie and slot offerings!


Back when things were simpler 🎰

Like mobile phones, computers and even typewriters, the pokie machines of today are more or less unrecognisable when comparing them to their earlier counterparts. Known exclusively as slot machines, one-armed bandits or fruit machines, the first “pokies” were basic coin-operated gambling devices.

The question as to who invented pokies in this form is a little bit hazy, given that these devices blurred the line between a slot and a novelty parlour or mechanised bar game – such as those that had multiple horses racing each other after a coin was deposited. Winners wouldn’t receive cash either. Instead, they’ve be given the choice of an alcoholic drink, food or even a cigar!

Calling these devices “pokies” might be a bit of a stretch, but there certainly existed other machines that resemble modern day slot machines. These rose to popularity in 1888 and actually paid out real money. All you had to do was insert some coins into the machine (sound familiar?). They would then drop onto a balance scale and if they landed in the right spot, other coins would spill into the hopper.

Looking back, this type of pokie machine probably doesn’t sound particularly exciting. But back then these slots were the bee’s knees. Especially when they started to incorporate more advanced features, such as the ability to spin and land on a certain symbol or picture to trigger a major prize.

More often than not, these pictures were of various fruit – watermelons, oranges, cherries, plums – hence their “fruit machine” moniker. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

How to play PlayCroco's pokies and slots? 🤑

Of course, the individual who invited pokies would look at modern day iterations as being much more user friendly. Playing an online pokie with PlayCroco, for example, is as simple as following the three steps below: 

  1. Load your PlayCroco account with credit using any one of our deposit methods
  2. Select a pokie or online slot to play
  3. Click “Play for Real

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Bavarian born, American made 🥨 

The man who invented pokies was a Bavarian-born American by the name of Charles August Fey.

Fey was a mechanic who lived in San Francisco that also worked as an inventor on the side. In 1894 he built his very first coin-operated gambling machine. It wasn’t until the following year though that he designed and assembled the 4-11-44 machine in the basement of his house. The 4-11-44 machine was then installed in a local saloon, where it became so well-liked that Fey was able to quit his job and open a factory to create enough units to meet demand.

With the money he made from the 4-11-44 machine, Fey went on to build the Card Bell in 1898. The Card Bell is credited as being the very first pokie machine ever, with three-reels and automatic cash payouts. It also had a handle that could be pushed down to set the reels in motion plus playing card suits as symbols.


Getting a little bit fruity 🍒

After the Card Bell came the Liberty Bell, which was built a year later and used horseshoes and bells as the in-game symbols. Despite the Card Bell being the first machine, the Liberty Bell is widely considered to be the first pokie to popularise pokie playing in the US and around the world!

When the bells lined up on the reels the top prize was paid out. Unfortunately, due to the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 only a few of these original pokie machines still exist.

The ones still in circulation after this catastrophic natural event though were quickly copied by one of Fey’s competitors, the Industry Novelty Company. The problem was that there were legal restrictions put on slot machines around the same time in order to regulate them.

This led to the Industry Novelty Company calling their machines “chewing gum dispensers” instead of slots (we talked about this… remember?). They also replaced the images on the reels with fruit symbols that indicated there were different flavours of chewing gum inside, even going as far as to build pokies that really did only pay out chewing gum… boring!


Video slots across the pond 🦘

The end of World War II ushered in the birth of faster, smarter and more rewarding pokie machines. At this point in time it was less about who invented pokies and more about which pokie machine sounded the best, had the brightest colours and paid out the biggest winnings!

Charles August Fey, the genius who invented pokies, had no part in this stage of the slot revolution. Las Vegas, however, was fast turning into the home of pokies and slots! With systems installed in pokie machines that linked machines in different locations, progressive jackpot amounts were born.

Called the “super jackpot”, this function allowed for massive amounts to be won, albeit with much less frequency. Slim odds of actually winning on a Las Vegas jackpot aside, it was this feature that put pokies on the map.

It was only a matter of time before these advanced machines made their way across the pond to the shores of Australia, where pokies were soon to be legalised in pubs throughout Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales.


The rise of pokie machines in Oz 🐨

Pokie machines in Oz throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s became more and more popular, but it wasn’t until the mid 1980s when they really took off. This surge in interest can be traced back to the introduction of video pokies which replaced electromechanical devices with computer software that brought slot into the digital age.

By the 1950s electromechanical pokies and slots were a mainstay in bars, casinos and even restaurants around the world. They came with new payout features, such as prize multipliers and the ability to pay out jackpots.

In Australia, the gambling company Aristocrat developed the country’s first pokie machine in 1953. Called the Clubman, it was rudimentary in its design and in its capabilities. It was soon replaced by the Clubmaster in 1955, which was essentially an upgraded version of the Clubman. Pity they didn’t also have a loyalty program like us though…

The Clubmaster had lights, three spinning reels and the option to choose between multiple paylines. Payouts were much smaller than what we’re acquainted with today, but by the standards of the time these machines offered punters a pretty decent jackpot amount! Find out what are the best Aussie pokies and slots.


Present day pokies and modern mobile slots 📱

Over 100 years after the man who invented pokies created the first machine, we find ourselves on the cusp of online gaming. It’s the 1990s and no more were you required to visit a pub, club or casino in order to play your favourite casino title. Suddenly, punters with a passion for pokies could play from home without having to download any software!

This was truly the biggest leap forward when it came to slot technology. Everything became faster, more fun and decidedly more profitable. They were one of the first to implement branded titles, such as Tomb Raider, and a pioneer of download-based casino software. To this day, all of our titles are designed and developed by SpinLogic.

But of course we can’t finish the article without talking about mobile slots, which are quickly replacing desktop or browser-based versions. Beginning about 10 years ago, mobile pokies that can be played on phones and tablets are the most modern iteration of the original coin-operated gambling machine.

The differences between the first machines and their mobile counterparts are vast and we wager that the man who invented pokies, Charles August Fey, would be amazed at how far we’ve come in a little over a century. In fact, we reckon if he were still alive to experience the new wave of HTML5 mobile pokies for iOS and Android, he’d want a PlayCroco account!

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