Why So Fruity?

Slot machines appear under many different names, from simply slots in America, Puggies in Scotland, Pokies in Australia, or most popular, Fruit Machines in England. But have you ever wondered how gambling and fruit came to appear together? It’s an unlikely pairing, but there’s a lot of history as to how the two ended up being associated.

The origins of the slot machines we know and love today were invented in 1895 by San Francisco mechanic Augustus (Charles) Fey. Previous to this, other drum (wheel) based games had existed before this, with many of them using playing cards as symbols. As a result of this, many of the earliest known and used symbols on the most basic slots are assumed to have been playing cards. These still often appear quite commonly, with many modern slots still using the playing card to determine their pay-outs. One of the oldest known symbols associated with gambling, the lucky number seven understandably became a natural fit as the card of choice on many machines, both old and new.

On the first run of slot machines, Fey opted to use cards combined with horseshoes, one of the oldest and most well-known symbols associated with luck, along with the popular liberty bell to create the winning lines. Many of these features continue even to this day. As online slots gradually increased in popularity, various iterations appeared that offered prizes other than simply money, most notably fruit flavoured chewing gum, which is where the use of fruit symbols seem to have originated (you would win the flavour of whatever symbols were on the win line). The now infamous bar symbol is also rumoured to have originated from these early machines, and is supposedly derived from the Bell-Fruit Gum Company’s logo, although there is evidence to believe that this is purely fiction. The use of food prizes as payment was a commonly used technique to avoid strict gambling laws across many different American states. For this reason, the normally innocent gumball and other sweet vending machines were often regarded with high mistrust by the courts.

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