Once upon a time, fruit machines (the UK version of American 'AWPs') were the extent of slot machines in the United Kingdom. A relaxation of laws meant that fruit machines were soon found in pubs, clubs and amusement arcades, with jackpots worth hundreds.

As technology improved, fruit machines were slowly replaced by five-reel video slots - often fitted with computerised software which governed the reels. And with super-casinos now scattered over the UK you'll find an impressive spread of slots to play.

The online casino revolution has led to some great 3-reel fruit machines hitting the casino lobby. You can even enjoy the familiar features found on many colourful fruit machines up and down the country.

A Brief History Of Fruit Machines 

The first slot machines appeared in the late 1800s and were perfected in the 1900s in the USA. The early machines featured three mechanical reels that were programmed to stop at designated spots.

The early 'fruit' symbols were designed to get round prohibitive gambling laws: instead of cash, they paid out flavoured chewing gum (e.g. three melons would 'pay out' a melon chewing gum). The fruit symbols have remained to this day.

Get The Reels Spinning

Land-based fruit machines work with three (rarely more) reels filled with about a dozen symbols each. Mechanical RNGs (Random Number Generators) govern where the reels stop on each spin.

There is plenty of criticism about fruit machines being 'fixed' but it's true that the RNGs aren't as advanced as you'll find in an online video slot.

Even today, some players love the classic feel of a fruit machine. Fruit machines have three reels, with a single payline often running across the middle row. In some cases, second and third paylines will run diagonally. Pushing the boat out, some online casino fruit machines will have 9 paylines.

Compare that to the no-holds barred paylines of online video slots. With 5 reels as standard, there is scope to feature anywhere from 10 to 50 paylines in a regular game. Some video slots allow paylines to run right to left as well as left to right, creating 243, 720, or 1,024 possible winning combos.

Bonus Features

UK fruit machine developers like Barcrest pioneered a new generation of fruit machines in the '70s and '80s.

These machines had a 'HOLD' option, which allowed players to keep one reel in place while the others were spun again. The 'Nudge' feature, meanwhile, let players move a reel up or down one or two spaces to form winners. Both features were randomly triggered.

Some online video slots have taken on the Hold and Nudge feature, especially if a substituting Wild is in play.

In addition, a colourful 'Trail Bonus' would light up the machine. The more consecutive wins a player got, the further along the numbered trail they would move. As they progressed along, cash pots and extra nudges could be won. A crude Hi-Lo bonus (guess whether the next number displayed would be higher or lower than the last) was also offered.

Today, these fruit machines have been converted into online slots and are available at many casinos. Even the trail bonus has been adopted by some video slots. Triggered by landing three or more special 'Scatter' symbols, the trail bonus is displayed on-screen and works by rolling a dice or spinning a wheel of fortune.

Comparing The RTPs And Payouts

Many land-based fruit machines were required to have RTPs above 80-85%. Even in casinos, you won't find a Return to Player percentage much above that on the classic machines.

Compare that to RTPs on modern video slots - especially those found online. Because of the lower overheads, online casino slots usually run anywhere between 93 to 98%.

Variance is a big issue too. With video slots covering so many more paylines, you might end up betting a lot before hitting a big payout. That's what makes a lot of online slots 'high variance' - nothing for ages then BOOM, a massive payout.

With few paylines, the outlay is lower on a fruit machine. However, the bonus features rarely exist either. That's why many fruit machines are considered 'low volatility'. You won't lose too much but you won't win a lot either. 

Working Off A Fruit Machine Bonus

Where online video slots and fruit machines have similarities is that they can both be used to work off a bonus. A casino welcome bonus guarantees free money if the player gambles enough on slots over their first month on-site.  

Typically, classic fruit machine-style slots will contribute 100% towards a deposit match bonus. One downside, though: with low jackpots you'll be playing a long time to work off any kind of bonus cash. 

Fruit Machines / Online Slots FAQs 

What's The Difference Between A Fruit Machine And A Video Slot?

A fruit machine works with mechanical reels and a physical mechanism that governs where the reels stop. Online versions of fruit machines have computerised RNGs (Random Number Generators), as do modern video slots.

Are The Symbols The Same?

No. Fruit machines tend to be dominated by fruit symbols like cherries, melons, and lemons. You may even find bells and BAR icons. Video slots can be themed around anything (films, TV, superheroes, ancient Egypt) with animated symbols to match.

What Are The Benefits Of Video Slots?

Because of the power of the software, online video slots can be as advanced as the developer makes them. They can be fitted with multiple bonuses and features, hundreds of paylines, and multi-million dollar progressive jackpots.

Can I Find Bonuses In Fruit Machines?

Some fruit machines have basic bonus features like the 'HOLD' (holding a reel in place for one spin), the 'Nudge' (moving a reel up one or two spots to complete a payline) or a trail bonus using the fruit machine display.

Can Fruit Machines Be Used Towards A Deposit Bonus?

Yes. 'Classic slots' are usually 100% eligible towards working off a welcome or reload bonus. It's hard to win massive jackpots on fruit machines, however, so playing through a large bonus total can be tricky.

How Do They Compare To Land-Based Fruit Machines?

In most cases, there is an upper jackpot in fruit machines which varies depending on the country and jurisdiction. In UK pubs and clubs it's around £500. Stakes are usually in the 10p-per-spin category. Online, however, fruit machines can be played at lower stakes, with bigger jackpots and more reliable RNGs in play.