Gambling machines are part of the furniture in many pubs, though less popular today than in the 1980s, but who first had the bright idea of combining coin-slot gambling with boozing?
Here’s a good candidate for the first in Britain, from a story that appeared in the Daily News for 18 June 1907 under the headline PUBLIC HOUSE SLOT MACHINES:
What was described as a test case was heard at Welwyn (Herts) Petty Sessions yesterday, when a publican named Titmus was fined 10s and costs for permitting gambling on his licensed premises by allowing a customer to use a “test your skill” penny-in-the-slot machine. The customer had to place a penny in the slot and pull down on a spring. There were two channels the penny could be dropped into and returned, two in which it was lost, and one from which a ticket was obtainable from a drawer exchangeable at the bar. The magistrates asked the superintendent to warn householders in the division that the use of the machines was illegal.
We think we can recall playing on similar machines during childhood holidays in places like Southend, Fleetwood and Weston-super-Mare, where they’d either been adapted to take modern coins or where old coins could be bought as tokens. They were very tactile with lashings of instant gratification.
In fact, with their wooden cases and vintage style, they’re just the kind of thing that would fit into a modern bar. Someone must already have done this, surely?