8 Ball Slot Machine – Perla Barragan of San Francisco plays a slot machine in the Wheel of Fortune slot area at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on July 30, 2021. The Wheel of Fortune slot machine game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @ellenschmidttt
Mayor Carolyn Goodman, left, presents the key to the city for 20 years of Vanna White’s Wheel of Fortune slots during the 2016 G2E meeting. (Courtesy of IGT)
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Wheel of Fortune Slots Zone Plaza Hotel and Casino, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. The slot machine game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @ellenschmidttt
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Gamblers try their luck at the Wheel of Fortune slots area at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 30, 2021 in Las Vegas. The Wheel of Fortune slot machine game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @ellenschmidttt
A gambler spins a wheel in the Wheel of Fortune slots area at the Plaza Hotel and Casino, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. The Wheel of Fortune slot machine game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @ellenschmidttt
A gambler plays the Wheel of Fortune slots zone at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 30, 2021 in Las Vegas. The Wheel of Fortune slot machine game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @ellenschmidttt
Wheel of Fortune host and secretary Vanna White plays the Wheel of Fortune slot machine at the 2016 Global Gaming Expo trade show. (Courtesy of IGT)
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Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, left, presents the Key to the City with entertainer Vanna White during the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Sands Expo and Convention Center. anniversary. Overview-Log file image
The game’s sound effects, tunes and tunes taken from the popular TV game show are just one of the reasons why IGT’s most popular slot machine has endured for 25 years.
Starting June 15 and continuing for the next few months until December 1, the company will celebrate 25 Weeks of Fortune, the brand’s silver anniversary, with special giveaways on the Wheel Facebook page.
IGT says Wheel of Fortune marked the first licensed slot machine brand and is the forerunner of many themed games featuring famous movies, TV shows and celebrities.
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And while Wheel of Fortune makes a huge visual impact on the casino floor with 250 different game options – some of them in cabinets over 11 feet tall – it’s the sounds they make that seem to keep fans coming back.
“You can’t walk a casino floor without hearing it,” said Boris Hallerbach, IGT’s director of premium product management in Reno. “Games seem to invite players.”
Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel shared the same impression. The downtown property has a Wheel of Fortune Slots Zone where a mix of different machine variations are grouped together.
“It’s amazing,” Jossel said. “It’s the sound of the game, everyone knows the noises of the Wheel of Fortune game, whether you hear it at the airport or in the casino. It’s the first sound you hear when you arrive in Las Vegas and the last sound you hear when you leave. It’s almost synonymous with Vegas, the Wheel of Fortune song and the sound of these rollers.
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According to Hallerbach, it started when former IGT chairman Charles Mathews attended an awards ceremony and by “a happy accident” sat next to the head of Sony Pictures Television. Over dinner, they talked about the potential of teaming up to develop game-show collaborations in slot machines.
“It’s been a little difficult to review the content of the entertainment and television company in the slot machines,” Hallerbach said. “Sensitivity was important to how we portrayed the slot game and the experience, and we wanted to separate ourselves a bit from the TV show and the slot machine.”
While 1996 is recognized as the birth year of Wheel of Fortune, significant development a decade prior to that created much of the Wheel’s success.
IGT has introduced Wide Area Progressive Jackpots, which basically combine machines from a wide area into one prize pool. Another slot king, Megabucks, introduced the concept to IGT.
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Ten years later, Wheel of Fortune takes on a wide-area progressive system, ensuring that the game’s biggest winners become millionaires.
The very first Wheel of Fortune game didn’t even have a wheel. It was just a three-reel mechanical nickel slot game with a game show theme.
Around that time, Anchor Gaming, a small Las Vegas company, had a patented wheel that was perfectly suited to Wheel of Fortune. Anchor operated slots games, including its Wheel of Gold, casinos in Cripple Creek and Black Hawk, Colorado, and tribal casinos in California. But his greatest contribution to the industry was providing the wheel that made the Wheel of Fortune famous.
IGT originally leased the rights to use the wheel. But in 2001, IGT grew into a dominant international presence, buying Anchor for $1.1 billion in stock, making it Nevada’s largest public company at the time.
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“We used Anchor wheels in the process and created a game that combined the Wheel of Fortune brand with strong IGT base games like Double Diamond and created something that really struck a positive chord with players,” said Hallerbach. “It’s the first brand in slots, and people who are familiar with the show on television every night, I think, are immediately drawn to the Wheel of Fortune slot game.”
With the popularity of the Wheel slot and the rise of the TV show, the IGT network of studios began to come up with variations of the game that proved to be just as popular as the original versions. IGT introduced the video version of Wheel in 2001.
As technology improved, IGT added more paylines and mixed more denominations for the game, attracting a wider audience to the game.
In 2006, IGT introduced the Wheel of Fortune Super Spin to attract more people to the game’s bonus features faster. In 2009, thanks to that wide area progressive jackpot, the Wheel delivered the largest jackpot of all time, $14.4 million, to a gambler in Biloxi, Mississippi.
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Cabinets and displays for gaming have grown. Some versions had slots for multiple players. The graphics have become clearer and more realistic.
When IGT first promoted its True 3D screen products in 2016, the TV show’s Vanna White met and photographed attendees at that year’s Global Gaming Expo trade show in Las Vegas. He received the ceremonial key to the city of Las Vegas as part of the celebration.
IGT followed in 2017 with the Wheel of Fortune MegaTower, which stands just over 11 feet tall, and in 2018, the company introduced a new gaming visual element, True 4D, where game elements bounce off the video screen and into the player’s lap.
A total of 250 different variations of the game are offered, and today players can sit back and play, while the voice of host Pat Sajak joins White as co-host and letter spinner. Players can also listen to the TV show’s announcer, Jim Thornton.
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For proprietary reasons, IGT officials won’t say how many Wheel of Fortune games are installed on casino floors in North America, where the game is most popular, but IGT chief gaming operating officer Nick Heane says it’s in the thousands.
“Players are very loyal to the product; They trust the game because it’s been on casino floors for a long time,” Khin said. “They’re very comfortable with it, and many players have long-term relationships with the game. Players come to the casino specifically looking for that game.”
The sounds, progressive jackpots and familiarity of the game have allowed Wheel of Fortune to develop a diverse player base.
Another way to keep the IGT wheel in front of the crowd is through raffle tickets. IGT is one of the largest operators of lottery games worldwide. In the US, the company sells lottery tickets in 25 states. West of the Mississippi River, they can be purchased in Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and Texas.
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Perhaps the most recognizable Wheel of Fortune slot machine player in the country is social media influencer Brian Christopher, a Toronto actor who moved to Southern California to try to make it in Hollywood and became a YouTube sensation.
“One day I posted some funny videos about my gambling and they went viral,” said Christopher about the birth of bcslots.com and his company BC Slots.
Christopher travels the country, mostly in the Southwest, and comes to Las Vegas several times a year to make YouTube videos of him playing and explaining slot machines.
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