The early 20th century was a time of much upheaval and change on the domestic front. Unfortunately for slot lovers and gamblers, the country’s general suspicion of gambling turned into full-bore gambling prohibition, so that by the year 1951, virtually all gambling in America was illegal. That changed in the 1930s, when the city of Las Vegas officially re-legalized gambling.
It’s fair to say that Vegas saved the slot machine, and (eventually) elevated it to the level of great art. The development of electro-mechanical slots in the 1950s gave slot designers the freedom to innovate, and innovate they did. New payout schemes, jackpot styles, graphic and audio effects, and features like coin multipliers were all added in the decade of the 1950s. Two decades later, Vegas was home to the world’s first video slot machines, games using simulated reels on a display rather than mechanical reels in a case.
At first, these new games were unpopular. Slot players were used to pulling a physical handle to initiate actual spinning reels. They wanted the classic sights and sounds, regardless of what great new technology was under the hood. Video slots were kind of a bomb at the time of their release.