The First Pub Gambling Machine?

A line of vintage slot machines.
Adapt­ed from ‘Bryans Muse­um of Pen­ny Slot Machines’ by Rus­sell Davies on Flickr, under Cre­ative Com­mons.

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?

3 thoughts on “The First Pub Gambling Machine?”

  1. I remem­ber play­ing on sim­i­lar machines on the Isle of Wight in my child­hood hol­i­days, when old pen­nies could be obtained from my Mum if I asked her nice­ly (for I am Old). But they used ball bear­ings – like the machine on the far right in your pic­ture – rather than actu­al­ly throw­ing the pen­ny around; I don’t imag­ine that sys­tem last­ed very long.

    Usu­al­ly you’d get your pen­ny back if you were lucky – or get three or four pen­nies back if you were very lucky – but I dis­tinct­ly remem­ber one ball-bear­ing machine that dis­pensed a pack­et of fruit Polos when I won on it.

  2. The quin­tes­sen­tial­ly quirky Hand in Hand in Brighton has an old fash­ioned one-armed ban­dit sit­ting next to the door. Nev­er played it but it cer­tain­ly looks the part.

  3. The Fox & Hounds at Funt­ing­ton, West Sus­sex, has one of these — in fact, I seem to remem­ber it’s the same as the one on the right of the pic­ture, but I’ve not been up there for a few months.

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