A History of Fruit Slots, Plus How They Went Viral Online

min read
Traditional fruit symbols features on a slot machine in a casino.
BetMGM Dec 14, 2023, 6:17 PM
  • With colorful and fun fruit-themed symbols, fruit slots and casino games have become synonymous with gambling.
  • Charles Fey built the first modern slot machine, which was coin-operated and eventually provided automatic payout.
  • To circumvent anti-gambling laws, Fey and other manufacturers altered the machines to pay out candy, gum, and other rewards instead of money, and symbols were changed to various fruit varieties.
  • Bally Technologies later introduced the world's first electrically operated slot, which quickly revolutionized the game's expansion and popularity in casinos, and eventually online.

Fruit Slots Are a Staple in Casino Gambling

Fruit slot machines have captivated gambling enthusiasts for over a century, delivering effortless and enticing gameplay focused on vibrant, unadulterated fun. The history of human ingenuity that drove the development of these games is a fascinating tale of innovation, from the charming jingles of the classics to the advanced technology of online slots.

Fruit Slot Machines History

Technically, the first game in slot machine history had nothing to do with fruit. The slot machine was created in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York and the original machine was an attempt at a new format of poker, with five drums that held 50 playing cards. The drums were two cards short of a full deck to give the house an edge, but no payout mechanism could cover all the different hand combinations in poker.

Around the same time, a San Francisco car mechanic named Charles Fey built the first coin-operated gambling machine. It took him several years to refine the design of the three-reel slots players have come to know and love, with the end result being the world’s first automatic cash payout machine. By replacing 10 cards with five symbols and using three reels instead of five drums, the complexity of reading a win was vastly reduced, allowing Fey to devise an effective automatic payout mechanism.

Fey’s machine, known as the Liberty Bell, used horseshoes, bells, and the suits of playing cards for symbols. It was the original one-armed bandit, with a lever on the side of the machine that set the reels in motion. The invention proved so popular that he opened a factory to meet the rising demand. Unfortunately, several serious challenges complicated matters. 

When San Francisco was hit by a large earthquake in 1906, only four of Fey’s machines survived the destructive force of nature. Then came the human-made obstacles, with authorities in law, government, and the clergy opposing the use of slots. In 1909, a law was passed banning all slots in San Francisco. 

The determination to overcome these challenges was crucial for the future of slot machines. Instead of packing up and calling it quits, Fey and his competitors found a crucial loophole to exploit. If games didn’t pay out money, they could go from taboo gambling games to fun vending machines. So, the monetary aspect of the game was removed to make them legal once again, switching coin payouts for rewards like drinks, candy, cigars, and eventually, chewing gum. 

Fruit Slot Machines Spread Across the U.S.

In order to circumvent the anti-gambling laws of the early 20th century, slot machines began to reward players with fruit-flavored gum and sweets as prizes. The symbols on the reels were changed to various fruits, such as cherries, plums, and oranges, reflecting the flavors of the candy-filled paytable.

In 1907, Herbert Mills worked with Charles Fey to produce the Operator Bell. The game was an instant hit across the U.S. and could be found everywhere, from bowling alleys to hair salons. It was the first game to use the BAR symbol found in modern slots, which is actually the logo for the Bell-Fruit Company. 

With bells and BAR symbols, fruit slots became simpler and more entertaining. Learning how to play fruit slot machines was a simple case of knowing how to pull a lever to spin the reels. That simplicity has withstood the test of time, offering more than enough interactive entertainment for classic slots to remain popular to this day. 

Online Fruit Slots Go Viral

The invention of electromechanical slots was the next big evolutionary leap. In 1964, Bally Technologies introduced the world’s first electrically operated slot, Money Honey. The machine boasted a bottomless hopper and an automatic payout of 500 coins. It didn’t take long for developers of fruit slot games to remove the manual lever on the side, replacing it with a simple button press.

For the next 20 years, jackpot slots expanded with different themes and reel setups. Flashing lights and electronic sounds were combined with graphics and animation to create brand-new formats. It soon became apparent that technology was a friend of the casino industry.

The first video slot was developed in 1976, marking the biggest evolution in decades. Microprocessors and graphic engines allowed developers to create immersive games with compelling themes, where players could receive additional payouts thanks to multiple bonus features.

Fast forward to the ‘90s, and the internet was changing the world. Casino owners discovered the immense potential of online entertainment, leading to the explosive growth of online casino games. As technology became more compact and mobile, the options for slots further diversified, ultimately resulting in the convenient and diverse selection of modern machines. With online casino play now legal and regulated in six US states, you can reside in or visit these locations to play a variety of fruit-themed games from your desktop, tablet or mobile phone. Online gaming doesn’t have the limits of casino floor space, so many different offshoots of fruit slot games have been introduced into the market such as Fruit Shop Megaways and Super Fruits Wild.

When you play slots online or in person, it’s clear that fruits, bells, and bars remain as popular as ever. Whether it’s the vibrancy of the colors or the simplicity of the symbols, players never get tired of their timeless design, maintaining a connection to the past while embracing the benefits of modern technology.

Play Fruit Slots at BetMGM Online Casino

State-of-the-art games are true to their longstanding heritage, but developers aren’t afraid to innovate either. If you’re looking for a sweeping selection of the world’s best casino games, register with BetMGM to enjoy all of the latest and greatest gambling entertainment, from classic slots with jackpots to machines with feature-rich modern formats.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.