Charles August Fey is often considered the father of slot machines. His designs were copied by countless slot machine manufacturers, but Fey never applied for a patent. His first slot machine, the Liberty Bell, is now part of the Fey Collection at the Nevada State Museum. In 1907, the Industry Novelty Company introduced “Bell Fruit Gum”. Herbert Mills took advantage of the popularity of this gum by developing “bell” fruit slot machines.
Slot machines were first introduced in the 19th century and had simple mechanisms and brought little profit. But the year 1887 marked a major turning point in the gambling industry. In Fey’s workshop, he created the first automatic slot machine. This machine had a primitive construction and required players to lower a minimum of five cents into a coin mechanism.
The slot machine industry grew quickly after Fey’s invention. Soon, other manufacturers adapted his design and found ways to avoid being banned from using it. By the end of the decade, more than 30,000 slot machines were manufactured worldwide. These machines were installed in saloons, bowling alleys, salons, and tobacconists. New laws made it illegal to disburse cash from slot machines. Initially, payouts were in the form of chewing gum and free drinks.
The invention of the slot machine was not successful without the help of the public. The first slot machine was installed at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. This mobster demonstrated to the casino industry that slot machines were profitable. The popularity of slot machines soared in post-World War II America. As a result, states started to tax their profits.