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One-armed bandits
reach hi-tech age

Oct 21, 2003 12:54 AM

Slot machines have been around for more than 100 years, but today”˜s high-tech marvels bear little resemblance to their cast iron predecessors. They have evolved over the years from penny machines with payouts of cigars and chewing gum to sophisticated electronic devices that are linked to progressive jackpots reaching into the millions of dollars.

Since its inception in San Francisco in the 1890s, the slot machine’s game technology actually changed little until the last quarter of a century. In the recent past, significant advances have been made that are continuing to revolutionize the functions of the machines — and the entire gaming industry.

The biggest change of the 1980s is regarded by many to be the evolution of the "stepper" slot, which uses a microprocessor to determine the outcome of the game, thus opening up larger possibilities for bigger jackpots, new games and more options for players.

A second key advancement enabled machines to give "credits" instead of paying coins on every play. With credits, the game plays faster, betting is facilitated and casinos have alternatives to working with coin.

Once stepper machines made their way into the world, slot machines began producing impressive numbers. In the state of Nevada, for instance, 1983 slot revenues surpassed once-dominant table game revenues for the first time. By the end of the century, slot revenues accounted for nearly 65 percent and table games accounted for about 35 percent of the total gaming revenues in Nevada.

Also in the 1980s, players began seeing more and more buttons and panel options on both slots and video poker machines. The new trend apparently proved an attraction to younger players, who developed their skills on arcade and home electronic games.

In addition, the appearance of dollar and higher-denomination games also influenced the industry. By early 1990, casinos were not only offering $1, but $5, $25, $100 and even $500 games as well!

Game machine evolution continues into the current decade. The multi-game machine makes switching between games and challenge levels as easy as the touch of a finger. With upgraded machine electronics, state-of-the-art video game machines now offer unparalleled choices to the player.

From simulated spinning reels to multiple poker variations to video blackjack (21), the choices available to players are almost unlimited — and they’re all available within one machine. Players seeking variety no longer need to wander the floor.

The latest innovation to break onto the scene is the bonus game, which maintains game familiarity while enhancing the overall game experience with exciting bonus opportunities and player appeal. Bonuses add a totally new dimension to today’s gaming experience, combining multimedia features, digital stereo sound and interactive game play.

Another hot trend has been the advent of ticket-in, ticket-out technology, or coinless slots, as they’re often called.

Among the advances that coinless slots have brought with them has been the advent of multi-denominational games within the same machine. Thus a player can switch between penny (yes, penny slots or video poker!), nickels, quarter and even dollar games — all on the same machine.

Obviously, if you’re playing a game with penny denomination, it would hardly be feasible to cash out your coins. That’s were ticket-in, ticket-out technology steps in.

Finally the games themselves have reached new levels. Current slot machines have themes or games based on other popular media. For instance, slot based on TV shows such as I Dream of Jeannie, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters and Wheel of Fortune have become popular.

In addition slots manufacturers have adopted a number of the entertainment world’s best-known icons to create innovative machines. These include Elvis, Monopoly, Jeff Foxworthy’s Redneck series, Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve, Little Green Men, Elephant King, Leopard Spots and many more.