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Casinos and the Digitization of the Slot Machine, 1950–1989
April-June 2011 (vol. 33 no. 2)
pp. 46-59
Cristina Turdean, University of Delaware

The last 30 years marked the unprecedented expansion of the casino industry and advances in gambling technology, particularly the slot machine. The development of the digital slot machine demonstrates the ways in which the culture of the casino floor and the specifics of the mechanical machine shaped the evolution of its digital successor.

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4. The 1951 Johnson Bill, which prohibited the transportation of any gambling device across state lines, was a major contributor to the nationwide suppression of gambling.
5. This lag was due to the nature and early history of the device. A product of the automatic-machines era, the slot machine emerged as an intriguing hybrid technology. Primarily it belonged to the family of coin-operated devices that dispensed merchandise in public spaces or entertained the late-19th-century urbanite in arcade games parlors. But the machine was also an obvious oddity because of the outcome of dropping the coin in the slot. The cash payout and the role of chance in securing it rendered the slot machine different from its counterparts and its functions (to amuse, sell a play, and reward) placed it on the volatile border of entertainment, vending, and gambling. The latter element gave reformers the grounds to target the device as a tool of vice and the subsequent antigambling regulation significantly limited the manufacturers' possibilities for product development. However, given the kinship of all coin-operated machines, the early manufacturers of slot machines also produced arcade games, which created the framework for the transfer of technical innovation from one product category to another. This technological lineage explains why slot machine designers frequently borrowed concepts and solutions used in gaming devices.
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14. Slugs are counterfeits or foreign coins of similar size as those accepted by the machine.
15. Stringing involves attaching a coin to a wire and then pulling it back from the slot after the reels are set in motion.
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30. J.C. Saxton, B.H. Osterberg, and J.C. Kawan, Amusement Apparatus and Method, US patent 4,095,795, Patent and Trademark Office, 1978.
31. This is how the Saxton machine works. Every fraction of a second, even when the machine is resting, the RNG generates random numbers from zero to several billion. The pull of the handle assigns the most recent number to the game being played. The microprocessor then checks the EPROM for the reel-stopping positions corresponding to that number, spins the reels, and stops them at those positions. The game result is determined when the random number is selected and depends solely on the time of the pull. The payout percentage (the percentage that the machine will return to the player in the long run) does not depend on the random number that determines the spinning and stopping of the reels but on the payout combinations of symbols on the reels (i.e., one versus two coins back for a combination of one diamond and two spades) or the number of winning symbols on each reel. Each state regulates the minimum payout percentage.
32. Bueschel, Lemons, Cherries, p. 260.
33. Bushnell would leave Nutting Associates to found Atari, the "cradle" of Pong (the first commercially successful videogame), and indirectly of Apple Computers (via Steve Jobs, a former Atari employee).
34. Bueschel, Lemons, Cherries, p. 282.
35. Advertisement for specialty machines in Bueschel, Lemons, Cherries, and Bell-Fruit-Gum, p. 281.
36. Bueschel, Lemons, Cherries, and Bell-Fruit-Gum, pp. 38–39.
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38. An IGT machine sold for US$12,000 in 1980 and $7,500 in 1982. Ernkvist, "Creating Player Appeal," p. 155.
39. I.S. Telnaes, Electronic Gaming Device Utilizing a Random Number Generator for Selecting the Reel Stop Positions, US patent 4,448,419, Patent and Trademark Office, 1984.
40. US patent 4,448,419, p. 39.
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45. J. Perry vice president of Trop World in Atlantic City, quoted in "Anatomy of a Megafacility," Casino J., July 1989, p. 45.
46. "Bally: Still a Casino Leader," Casino Gaming Magazine, May 1985, p. 54.
47. "SDS-II User's Guide," Bally Manufacturing, 1988, p. I-1.
48. "Bally Expands Its Slot Data System," Casino Gaming Magazine, Feb. 1986, p. 48.
49. M. Lestrange systems manager for Bally's Park Place, quoted in "Bally Expands Its Slot Data System," Casino Gaming Magazine, Feb. 1986, p. 48.
50. "IGT: The King of Video Poker Expands Its Product Line," Casino Gaming Magazine, May 1985, p. 62.
51. "EDT's Player Tracking System Proves Its Worth," Casino Gaming Magazine, Nov. 1985, p. 61.
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53. D.R. Davidson quoted in "Showboat," Casino Gaming Magazine, July 1985, p. 54.
54. D. Macomber quoted in "Knowing the Player Can Be a Comp Key," Gaming and Wagering Business, Jan. 1985, p. 45.
55. For examples of new methods see G.L. Lewis Jr., Casino Surveillance: The Eye That Never Blinks, G&G Surveillance Specialists, 1996, p. 50.
56. A.J., "Bud" Hicks, "What's in a Slot?" Gaming and Wagering Business, Dec. 1984, p. 47.
57. For a summary of this case see J. Burbank, License to Steal: Nevada's Gaming Control System in the Megaresort Age, Univ. of Nevada Press, 2000.
58. Nevada State Gaming Control Board, memo to the Nevada Gaming Commission, Regulation 14, Amendments, 13 July 1989, pp. 1–2, quoted in Burbank, License to Steal, p. 107.
59. "Regulations of the Nevada Gaming Control Commission and State Gaming Control Board," adopted 1 July 1959, revised Jan. 2011; http://gaming.nv.govstats_regs.htm#regs.
60. Hicks, "What's in a Slot?" p. 11.
61. F. Gushin quoted in "DGE Slot Testing Assures Integrity in New Jersey," Casino Gaming Magazine, May 1985, p. 31.
62. "DGE Slot Testing Assures Integrity in New Jersey," Casino Gaming Magazine, May 1985, p. 30.
63. A. Parrillo, "Combating Casino Crime," Casino Gaming Magazine, Apr. 1988, pp. 26–27.
64. I thank J.L. Hall a scholar of electronic voting, for suggesting these connections.

Index Terms:
History of computing, gambling technology, slot machines, casinos, computer applications, organizational impact of computers, computing and information systems management
Cristina Turdean, "Casinos and the Digitization of the Slot Machine, 1950–1989," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 46-59, April-June 2011, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2011.33
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