Bally Slot Machines – Casino History
There is something about Bally slot machines iconic design which deserves a place in casino history. Line them up and they take on a space age look, add the sound of a casino and chance of beating the machine and you have an awesome formula. Which slot will deliver the best wins though, what joy they bring to the casino.
The Bally Story
The first slot machine was invented in 1887 by Charles Fey a garage mechanic from San Francisco. It was mechanically crude but very attractive and the slot machine soon caught in bars and restaurants all over America.
It was not until 1932 that the Bally slot machines empire started. Founded by Raymond Moloney, he was a man with a mission to provide pin ball machines for a growing new market. The Bally Manufacturing company was founded in Chicago and later expanded into the manufacture of slot machines for casinos. They re-named themselves Bally Entertainment and provided a whole range of services including health clubs and theme parks.
They will probably be best remembered for their contribution to the world of slot machines, which spanned several decades. Their name became synonymous with quality and service throughout the fast growing casino and interactive entertainment industries.
Billy Moloney died in 1958 and the group suffered a brief downturn in business. The parent company was taken over by a group of investors in 1963. By the end of the decade they became a publicly traded company. By then they had a massive 90% slice of the world slot machine market.
They did diversify into a number of areas including a coffee vending service and their own record label. Today however they are best remembered for their immense contribution to the slot machine industry. They grew strong on the back of the casino industries of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Bally also became strong in the Australian gaming market.
The ongoing Bally History
By the late 1970’s Bally had entered the bricks and mortar casino business. The Bally Park Palace Casino & Hotel opened on 29th December 1979. Strangely, at the same time they diversified into the home computer market when they launched Bally Professional Arcade but it flopped. There was tough competition from the market leaders, Atari Games.
However, a subsidiary company named Midway did become very successful when they developed and licensed the first popular video arcade games. They are now famously known Space Invaders and Pac-Man.
The Bally Total Fitness brand became very successful during the 1980’s and 90’s and they purchased more casinos. They included the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in the Las Vegas, the MGM Grand Reno, the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City and later the Bally’s Casino Resort. This aggressive expansion was all too much so, in 1988 they had to sell off some assets including the Six Flags amusement arcade division, the Pinball division and the Midway games company.
During the early 1990’s the newly formed Bally Entertainment Corporation reinvented itself and was moving away from gaming. The new core target business was to be the fitness equipment and leisure industry. By 1995 they went on to open the Bally’s Casino at Tunica, Mississippi and had commissioned the Paris Las Vegas.
In 1995, the Bally Entertainment Corporation was taken over by the Hilton Hotels Corporation. It subsequently became Caesar’s Entertainment and was acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment during 2005.
Over the years many casinos and businesses bought into the Bally brand. However to this day it is probably best remembered for those famous Bally slot machines. Today, the slot machine software arm lives on, now known as WMS Software and Scientific Games.
Bally Slot Machines
The first slot machine conceived by Ballys was a simple three reel single pay-line slot affectionately know as the “Bally Baby” It was kind of cute but ugly as you can see, much different to the sparking machines which followed. The only attraction must have been winning but that single pay-line must have been a downer.
Over the decades Bally learned to make the slot machines more attractive visually and more enticing to play. The first thing they learned was to improve the user experience. The first machine was just a boring random number generator with very little user value.
These days the video element of the games offers the best form of attraction, apart from winning. There are multiple reels, row and plenty of pay-lines. The progressive jackpot was also introduced with the advent of computer technology.
Today, such electronic wizardry has enabled slot machine users to watch videos and listen to audio clips from films. For example the Bally video slot game inspired by the film grease has entertained million of slot machine players. The Michael Jackson “King of Pop” video slot game was also a huge success.
It has to be said that the evolution of licensing these new slot games has also been developed to add consumer protection for players. Slot machine payout rates are now controlled under licence. In the early days, one wonders what sins might have been committed without regulation.
The Bally slot machine division have been an inspiration to other slot machine designers. They were the first to develop interactive gaming by gesture recognition. The days of pulling lever on the side of a machine are now long gone. Why those early slot machines were called one-armed bandits? It did suggest to me that it might because the machines would rob you of all your money!
We are not suggesting anyone at Bally was a bandit but back in the 1970’s the head of the company was forced to resign. His resignation was surrounded by allegations of links to organised crime. As you can may have read in this article evolution of Bally was a long and fragmented process. However the good name of Bally as a brand still lives on.