Who is Charles Fey

Charles Fey was born in Bavaria in Germany and moved to the US when he was 23 years old, settling in San Francisco, and it was there in 1895 that he invented the slot machine. Fey is known as the father of slots however there were actually machines around before that, very simple machines that offered poker games on which players could win a free drink or a cigar, but it was Fey who introduced more complex machines that paid out in coins.

The very first slot machine was called Liberty Bell and it proved to be so popular that Mr Fey opened up his own slots factory in 1896, where he and his partner Theodore Holtz started churning out the machines to meet demand. The very first slot was of course a simple 3 reel affair with symbols such as spades, diamonds, hearts and of course the bell, and as the bell was the highest paying symbol on those 3 reels the machine became fondly known as the Bell Machine.

The First Slot of Liberty Bell

The popularity of the Bell machine knew no bounds and bar owners in and around San Francisco snapped them up just as soon as they were coming out of the factory doors. You would have thought that this would have made Fey a very rich man, after all he has invented the most popular gambling device in the world...as it was soon to become, but that was not however the case. Sadly, at least for Fey, patent laws back then didn’t cover gambling devices and instead of selling his machines and protecting his invention, all he could do was lease them to bars and saloons and take 50% of the profits that they made.

The simple three reel machine of Liberty Bell became the standard to which other slot machines were designed to, with three reels and 10 symbols that provided 1,000 different combinations of symbols. The house edge on those early machines was a huge 25%, and just to let you know how much things have changed on that front, todays machines have a house edge of around 5%...slightly less in favor of the ‘house’. The popularity of the very first slot machines continued to grow and in 1907 Mr Fey joined forces with Herbert Mills and they introduced the ‘Operators Bell’ machine that provided 20 symbols on the 3 reels. Different companies sprang up and soon enough slots machines were all over the United States and in 1940 they made their entry into Las Vegas at the Flamingo Casino, and the rest as they say, is history.

Todays online slots are of course massively different to the very first slot of Liberty Bell, however the principal is much the same. The reels on LIberty Bell span and stopped randomly, much like the random number generator in todays online slots, and the fundamental mathematics behind the machines remain pretty much intact. The modern graphics and animations sure do make todays slots look a whole lot different, but underneath, it’s still Charles Fey’s idea that makes the game work.