April 12, 2024

Influential Figures in the History of Slots

2 min read


A slot is a thin opening in something. You can put letters and postcards through the mail slot at a post office. People also play games like slot machines where they insert coins into slots to activate them. The machine then generates a sequence of symbols that correspond to different pay lines. The odds of winning vary based on the number of reels and how many symbols per reel.

The first time I played a slot machine was when I was 20. I lost my money but it was still fun. In the old days you could only play for actual cash, but now you can use advance deposits. It’s easy to blur the line between real money and virtual credits when you gamble online.

In his heyday, John Scarne was the foremost expert on gambling and cheating at cards (the US government hired him to show servicemen how not to get cheated). He used to say you can never time a slot machine because its randomness is completely unrelated to previous spins or what you have done to it.

Another influential figure was William Redd, who founded International Game Technology in the 1950s and transformed slot machines from a sleepy afterthought to casinos’ leading source of revenue. The UNLV Oral History Research Center has an extensive interview with him that highlights his role in turning the slot industry around. Among other things, Redd found ways to make new technologies improve the form and function of the machines and eliminate the weaknesses that led Hirsch and others to dismiss them as irrelevant.

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