Baseball is among the most popular sports in the United States – and it has been for decades. And as such, it has left a mark on American pop culture, including the branch many of us are reluctant to talk about – gambling. When slot machines were invented in the late 19th century, there were just a couple of varieties available with no need for features and themes to make them stand out of the crowd. Later, in turn, themes became a thing, giving birth to sports-themed gaming machines. And some of these were quite interesting takes on the matter.
While slot machines have become the most successful coin-op machines in history, they were by far not the only such devices that made history. Trade simulators were mechanical countertop machines widespread across saloons, general stores and tobacco shops in the late 19th century that were used as an early form of automated gambling, with prizes either in money or in various products – like candy, cigarettes, and others.
PEO Manufacturing was one of the companies that produced such coin-op trade simulators between the late 1920s and the late 1930s. It released several sports-inspired games, covering basketball, and baseball.
Trade simulators were pretty successful, especially during the times when gambling was pretty much banned almost all over the US – as the prizes were usually products rather than cash, they could be used pretty much without fear of retribution from the authorities.
The first electromechanical slot machines were released in the 1960s thanks to the innovative work of Bally, now part of the Scientific Games group of companies. Known mostly for its pinball machines, Bally ventured into gambling with its Money Honey slot that made history in its area, fueling the emergence of entire generations of similar games in the coming decades.
Pinball machines were all the rage at the time. These games came with a variety of themes, covering everything from cars to sports – and many of them had baseball as their main theme.
Gaming machines continued to evolve, especially in the 1970s when the first solid-state computers emerged, allowing the creation of the first video slot machines and poker games. The decades that followed have seen improvements both in their visuals and functions. Finally, in the 1990s, gaming machines found their way to the internet where they thrive ever since.
Today, online gaming outlets often have hundreds of games, most of them slot machines. The JackpotCity online casino has more than 800 such games in its library, and several of them are inspired by various sports, from cricket to soccer and racing. And, of course, baseball. While the MLB is reluctant to license its brand to slot machine manufacturers, there are still more than enough games to pay homage to this great sport, bringing it to a completely different category of fans.
Sports and gaming machines would always go hand in hand, offering fans a way to stay close to their favorite sport even when they’re nowhere near a stadium. This was the case a hundred years ago – and it’s still happening today, albeit in a completely different (and much more accessible) form.