In the illustrious history of slot machines
, a few names stand out: Charles Fey, Sittman & Pitt, and Bally. Without a doubt, the latter is the most renowned; Bally is now a multi-billion dollar company at the very center of the gambling business. But Bally Manufacturing was also a key player in the early days of the slot machine and, as such, it's worth taking a second look.
Ray Moloney founded Bally Manufacturing Company in 1932 in order to jump on the pinball-machine bandwagon that was all the rage during the Depression era. The first Bally pinball machine was a small machine called Ballyhoo, which became a runaway success. The machine was followed by other profitable pinball machines, which propelled Bally to the top of the industry and which paved the wave for Bally to become the King of the Slots.
Bally and Moloney first entered the gambling business with the introduction of a dice machine in 1936; later that same year, they manufactured their first slot machine and the rest is slot history. The first slot was called Bally Baby — it was a mini cast-iron slot machine filled with mechanical gears, springs and levers — and after its introduction the company enjoyed exclusive reign over the slot-machine market for a few years until the competition woke up. Bally took a slot-manufacturing break during World War II but got right back on the slot horse after the war with the introduction of Hi Boy, the first console-type slot machine that was the prototype for all the slots that would be manufactured during the following three decades.
Bally's future became uncertain when Ray Moloney died in 1958; the following five years were dicey for the gaming-machine manufacturer. In 1963, however, a man by the name of Bill O'Donnell took over the helm at Bally and steered it to renewed fortune. That same year, Bally introduced Money Honey, a groundbreaking, 3-reel, electromechanical slot machine that changed the face of the gambling biz forever.
Money Honey was innovative in that it used an electronically controlled mechanism (as opposed to the purely mechanical construction that had been used until that time); and a much bigger — "bottomless" — coin hopper that could hold and pay out up to 500 coins to a lucky winner. A star was born and Money Honey ruled the slot roost for over a decade. Within just a few years of O'Donnell assuming leadership of Bally, the company was producing over 90% of the slot machines found on the floors of Vegas casinos.
The company went through a few years of turmoil while at the same time it expanded into the hotel industry, buying hotels in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. O'Donnell left the company and was not part of the tumultuous period of mergers and acquisitions. In 1982, with a different president at the head of Bally, the company introduced the first video slot; the first video poker
machine followed two years later. Once again Bally forever changed the way slots would be played.
Bally continued to grow and expand, becoming an even more powerful force in the gaming industry; the slot-machine-manufacturing arm of the huge conglomerate was just a small part of the big Bally picture. Bally continued to make slot machine history
when it introduced the first touch-screen video slot machine
in 1994; called the Game Maker, it allowed players to choose from ten different games on one console just by touching the screen. Since then, Bally's famous name can be seen on the Internet; it is already a major player in the online gambling
business. The company has moved into the 21st century with the same determination and zeal that it has shown for the last 75 years. Slot machine lovers will forever be in their debt.