The slot machine, also known as the one-armed bandit, is a gambling device that involves dropping coins or tokens into a slots and pulling a handle to activate one to three reels marked with different symbols. The machine returns its money by dropping two or more coins into a cup, or a trough. This depends on how many symbols are lined up at the end of the rotating reels. The symbols used are stars, cards suits, bars and numbers (7 is a favorite), and various pictured fruits like cherries, plums and oranges and lemons–along with the jackpot, and bar.

Slot Machine, which is shorthand for nickel-in the-slot machine, was initially used to describe automatic vending machine. However, it became almost exclusively a reference to gambling devices in the 20th Century. Although they were novelty devices, the first coin-operated gambling machines in America date back to 1880s. They included two horses that raced after a coin was inserted into the machine. These machines were placed on bars in saloons or similar establishments and attracted wagering among patrons. The majority of machines paid the proprietor in drinks, cigars, or trade checks, which were special-minted metal tokens that could be used to exchange for refreshments. In 1888, machines that could pay in coins were available. The first machines had coins that fell on an internal balance scale. This could cause the coin to tip over and spill out other coins. Later devices included a rotating indicator and a circular display.

Charles August Fey, a Bavarian-born American inventor, invented the first modern slot machines. He was a mechanic from San Francisco at the time and built his first coin-operated gambling device in 1894. Fey built the 4-11-444 in his basement the following year. It was so popular at a local saloon, that Fey quit his job to open a factory to make more. The first three-reel, automatic cash payout slot machine was built by Fey in 1898. The handle of the Card Bell set the reels into motion when it was pushed. playing cards suitmarks lined up to form Poker hands. The Liberty Bell was his next slot machine. It used bells and horseshoes in addition to playing card suitmarks. The top payout was awarded to the player who has three bells in a row. Due to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake only four of the more than 100 Liberty Bell machines made by Fey survived. The Liberty Bell was a hit with San Francisco saloon patrons and was copied quickly by Fey’s rivals, the Mills Novelty Company in Chicago.