Although many people associate slots with Las Vegas casinos and online casinos (such as Casumo) where players spend significant amounts of money in the hopes of winning vast sums of cash, free online slot games are becoming increasingly common. However, before we look at where you can get your hands on some of the world’s most popular cost-free games, as well as the very latest releases from top providers such as Net Entertainment, Microgaming, Playtech, NYX, and WMS, we’re going to look at how slots originated and why they’ve become one of the favourite types of game for people to play online in recent years.

When was the first slot invented?

Before online slots existed, the only way you could go spinning in search of winnings was by playing physical slot games. And, to begin with, they were known as fruit machines due to their fruit-themed symbols, and also coined the name “one-armed bandit” due to the arm (or handle) that was required to spin the reels.

According to several online sources, the very first slot was invented by an American car mechanic called Charles Fey in 1895, and its name was Liberty Bell. The game featured three reels (which is still a common format found in free online slot games today), each of which was imprinted with symbols of spades, horseshoes, diamonds, hearts, and a liberty bell. Once the player inserted a nickel, the machine’s lever could then be pulled, and the reels would start to spin. If, after the reels stopped at random, matching symbols appeared on all three reels, a bell would sound and the machine would eject up to ten nickels as a prize.

By 1907, the Liberty Bell had become so popular that the game’s inventor joined forces with the Mills Novelty Company to make a more advanced version called the Operator Bell, which featured fruit symbols instead of playing card symbols and horseshoes. The machines began to appear in shops, bowling alleys, and tobacconists across America, and over the next few decades, fruit machines continued to gain fans until the first electronic slot was built in 1964.

Money Honey

Bally Technologies, who is still known as one of the world’s greatest producers of paid and free slots, released a game called Money Honey in 1964. Although you still had to pull a lever to play it, the reels were fully electronic. A company called Fortune Coin, which was swiftly acquired by IGT, was the first brand to make a slot that gained notoriety on the Las Vegas Strip, and by the mid-90s, numerous slots could be found in both US and UK land-based casinos. The new generation of physical slot games saw the traditional three-reel format overtaken by five-reel varieties, and multiple paylines, bonus features, and progressive jackpots began to become more common as the game designers battled to outdo their competitors and retain the interest of players.

The birth of online slots

Before slots could be marketed online, online casino sites had to be invented, and Microgaming (another popular manufacturer of free online slot games) claims to have launched the first one in 1994. Suddenly, people across the UK and America had access to a huge range of free online slot games, as well as the ability to play the games with real funds for a chance to win generous prizes.

By 2008, UK bingo sites started getting in on the action by offering their members a selection of slots alongside bingo games. Like their online casino counterparts, bingo operators were keen for players to be able to try this new type of game out risk-free and hence free online slot games were born.

Finding free online slot games

Considering that casino and bingo operators rely on people spending money at their sites to make a profit, it might seem odd that many of them allow you to play free online slot games. However, it’s really not that different to being offered a no-deposit bonus when signing up at an online casino or bingo site which allows you to get a better idea of the advantages of becoming a member, as well as having an insight as to the types of games on offer.

Because there now hundreds if not thousands of slots to choose from, it’s almost impossible to sample them all with real funds (unless you’re lucky enough to have won the lottery or a progressive jackpot). Plus, free online slot games come in so many different varieties that it’s hard to know whether you’re likely to prefer playing three-reel versus five-reel games, slots with just a few paylines or ones with a hundred paylines, low, mid or high-variance games, and easy to play slot games versus ones with more complex features and bonuses.

The easiest way for casino and bingo operators to let you access free online slot games is by offering you the chance to play them in ‘fun’ or ‘demo’ mode, i.e. without the need to pay. Usually, this means you’ll have access to all of the features of the regular game – you just won’t qualify to win real funds or scoop a progressive jackpot.

However, if you have an account at the site you’re playing free slots at, you may be able to win bonus funds, and you can either reinvest your winnings in the same game or use them to discover even more free online slot games.

Paid versus free online slot games

Because many people love slots for the fun experience they provide and the constant anticipation of wondering whether the next spin will be “the big one”, it’s not necessary to spend money every time you want to play your favourite games or check out a new release from your favourite providers. Of course, by taking advantage of the scores of free slots that are available on the web, you may decide at some point to start playing with real cash. However, there’s no pressure to do so, and as long as you continue to love playing slot games, free slots will always be a fun, cost-free, and risk-free option.