Penny Slots UK Guide - Free Penny Slot Machines Online
However you like your slots, it’s a fair bet that the modern online casino industry has the games for you.
The online video slots industry is now a massive sprawl of styles, genres, and game types.
In this guide, we will refer to penny slots! The UK penny slot machines you can play online for free or real money!
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The World of Slots
Although there is this enormous apparent diversity in the industry the actual mechanics of the game itself remain relatively stable: players stake money, they then press a button that sets off a shuffling of the symbols (a spin, a crash-in, a tumble), and symbols that match across pay lines trigger a pay-out.
The more unlikely the set of symbols is to align, the larger the pay-out.
That accounts for the base game in most slots. Almost all games also offer bonus rounds and extras of some kind. Most games have a wild symbol that substitutes for others in order to provide bigger wins. They also usually have a “scatter” symbol that can form winning sets without aligning and most often performs as a trigger for the main bonus game. The most common form of a bonus game is a free spins round that allows the player to enjoy a number of fee-free games, often with extra features that improve the chance of winning prizes, or that increase the size of prizes that are won.
So where do “penny slot machines” fit into this world.
The answer – which you already know, clever you! – is simply that they are cheap to play. We’ll discuss how cheap that should be later on. Beyond that, a penny slot might offer everything that we’ve discussed. It might be sophisticated, but these games are more likely to be simple, and more likely to have a retro style that suits their good-value aesthetic. In supermarket terms, penny slots and own-label products.
How did we get here?
The History of Slots: From Cheap and Cheerful to Sophisticated High Rollers
Take a look at the stats on most new online video slot games and you’ll usually see that it’s possible to stake quite a lot of money on each spin.
For example: the brand new slot, TweetHearts from JustForTheWin offers players a gambling range from 10p to £100.
But that wasn’t always the case. The slot machine started as a relatively low-key gamble, and at times it’s even hidden the financial element of play to stay on the right side of restrictive gambling legislation, particularly in the United States.
The First Slots: A Barroom Diversion
If you’ve got a mind that likes to solve puzzles you’ve probably worked out that the slot game is a version of a card game. In fact, it’s a straight rip-off and mechanisation of a poker hand.
The first games made this link completely explicit by actually sticking cards onto the reel where today we see beautifully designed symbols. It’s also why the symbols from a deck of cards are such a common symbol on slot reels.
Those games worked very like today’s. The player pulled a lever to set the drums (as they were then called) in spin, and a mechanical mechanism stopped them (apparently at random). The first machines had five drums and the only pay-line was a single horizontal line. If the cards landed in a winning poker hand you won a prize. The machines weren’t yet clever enough to deliver a mechanical payout so you had to go to the store owner or bartender to claim your prize.
The game is recognisably a game of poker, with the lever pull standing in for the start of a game in which cards are dealt to a player.
America’s laws on gambling remain something of a mystery to outsiders, with national and state-level authorities administering their own laws. Back when the first slots were coming out at the end of the 19th-century things weren’t all that different.
The card symbols made the slots’ link to card gambling too explicit and the law looked like it might stamp on this new industry.
That’s when slots became fruit machines. The cash prizes were replaced with food, often fruit, more often fruit-flavoured chewing gum. And the card symbols were replaced with fruit symbols or the logo of gum companies (this is probably where the bar symbol originates). Players still had to go to the machine owner to pick up their prizes initially, but the new symbols also allowed companies to produce much simpler pay tables.
This meant that prizes were no longer worked out based on the fiendishly complex odds against hands in a game of poker. Poker hands are made up of 52 unique cards. The first slots removed a couple of those cards to tilt the odds in the favour of the game owner, but the sums were still too complex for mechanical calculation. Simpler symbols allowed automatic pay-outs, and the machines became even more attractive to saloon and shop owners.
The slot was on its way to mass acceptance, whatever the law might say.
These games were not highly sophisticated. And they were cheap to play. If you wanted to stake a lot of money on gambling you’d have to play with friends or play in a casino. All of the original slots were penny slots.
But you can’t make a lot of money from penny slots. Unless you have a huge number of them. That’s where the mega-casinos of Las Vegas come into the picture.
The invention, in 1963, by Bally (who are still major players in the slot world, on- and off-line) of Money Honey changed the game. This machine was electromechanical, and so it could calculate and pay-out large sums of cash. In 1976 video slots were pioneered by the Fortune Coin Company, using a TV screen. IGT, whose name you may know from online casino sites, bought the company and its patents after its games were approved for use in Las Vegas.
While the image of Las Vegas in glamorous movies is most often of the roulette wheel or the card table, the reality is a city jammed with millions of slot machines.
These machines deliver a reliable profit for their owners and operators and offer their players the chance of a big win in exchange for a small stake. They’re accessible and easy to play, and by networking machines, they can offer absolutely massive prizes. These are called progressive jackpots, and they’re a key part of the appeal of penny slots, including online penny slots.
The Slot Goes Online: Pennies Become Micro-transactions
The internet made the world one big playground. It also virtually destroyed national jurisdictional boundaries and all-but wiped out a load of laws in real terms – the laws regulating pornography and gambling (both virtual goods that could be wholly delivered online) were among the most obvious victims of this form of globalisation.
The big impediment to gambling online was money. Once it was possible to transfer money safely, in a way that was understood and trusted by players, the internet gambling industry could take off.
The fact that digital payments took off so early in the life of the internet is a good indication that capitalism saw the online world as a space in which to expand.
The first digital payments can be dated back to 1994 when the Stanford Federal Credit Union offered online banking services for the first time. Stanford University is a tech hub, home of Google, amongst many other big tech companies, and these systems weren’t really user-friendly enough for “ordinary people” to use. Amazon was founded in the same year, becoming the first big online shopping success story, and is now well on its way to being an economy in its own right.
Early payment were made by the time-tested method of bank transfers. But such payments aren’t instant, and it wasn’t long before people started to look for faster and more convenient ways to pay online. The whole premise of the internet is that EVERYTHING is available to you NOW.
The first big online payment success was PayPal, which found a worldwide audience when it was adopted as a preferred payment method by eBay. By using an email address as one’s address, a PayPal account could send and receive money instantly. It also put a buffer between your online financial life and your bank account.
PayPal has an interesting history in the gambling world, having pioneered in the sector but then done a 10-year runner as American legislators clamped down on a worldwide gambling industry drove a coach and horses through local US prohibitions.
PayPal is virtually a banking service these days. Many online slots players use online wallets like Skrill and Neteller that can store money online.
Legal Online Penny Slots
Online slots were first regulated in 1994, as Barbuda and Antigua started to license online casino sites. (This off-shore regulation has become a decent earner for a number of countries.)
But it took two years for InterCasino to set up as the first online casino after the poker rooms blazed a trail. InterCasino pioneered the use of Cryptologic, a software package, to make safe payments online.
Soon, the world was gambling online.
Where do online penny slots fit into this world?
Pennies Lose Their Meaning Online
Pennies are lumps of metal. They’re relatively low-value lumps of metal, but at the end of the day, that’s what they are.
We no longer gamble with lumps of metal. Instead, we gamble with virtual money held in the account of our online casino membership.
And the Penny Slot is something of a creature of the off-line world.
Technology now means that any game can accept a huge variety of stakes: the mathematics is pretty simple, there’s no need to do anything other than scale up and down the payments.
Penny slots still exist though – sort of – as a style of game.
Penny Slots: A Genre in Online Slots
To spot a penny slot isn’t quite as simple as it once was.
Games offer staking along a huge scale and as we don’t need an actual slug of lead to pop into a coin slot what’s a penny slot defined by?
It will have low staking. And really it should allow spinning the reels for a penny, so look for 0.01 as the usual way of writing this in reviews and listings. (Be careful that you’re aware of the difference between actual currency values and “coin” amounts too – as ever when you’re playing for money it always pays to know exactly what you’re doing at all times.)
Is a Penny Really a Penny?
A penny a go is a tempting offer, but few players – even on penny slots – will actually end up playing for that amount.
That’s because of the way slot staking works. Some machines take an amount that you select and make that the total stake for the spin. Others allow you to bet per pay-line. And some penny slots advertise themselves as such when it’s not possible to bet a penny because you have to bet on a set number of pay lines to even enter the game.
We have a slight possibility with the honesty of that.
The message here is the same as it ever was. Always take a look at the rules of any game you’re playing.
Then there are games that ask you to spend over a certain amount to unlock bonus features or to trigger a higher theoretical return to player. Again, the penny slot element is there – you can bet a single penny on a single pay line – but the full game isn’t up for grabs to bargain basement players.
Maybe you get what you pay for. But you should also get what you’re being told you’re paying for, and a game that is advertised (or even named) as a penny slot ought to give you a full game for a penny.
If you are really paying to keep your stakes low then look for games that allow genuine penny bets, or ones that have a relatively low number of pay lines that you have to stake on to activate the full game.
If you’re more concerned about a more entertaining game then you might want to ante up for fuller game experience and more pay line bets – you have to be staking on a line to win on it, that’s an unalterable fact of penny slots.
Penny Slots and Progressives
One way in which penny slots can become more alluring is via progressive jackpots.
Most slot machines make their pay-outs absolutely independently of the betting behaviour of the player. That is, random events trigger pay-outs. Games are set up to deliver a particular pattern of results that guarantees the theoretical return to player – usually around 96%, or a house edge of around 4% at the moment – and, while prizes are usually dependent on the size of your stake (ie, 5x stake) these prizes aren’t dependent on the amount of money the machine has received.
Progressive slots work somewhat differently and they’re one of the great innovations of the networked age.
A progressive slot typically offers two sets of prizes. A standard pay-table (this will often offer a lower RTP than comparable non-progressive games) in the base game, and a second big jackpot prize that is won via a randomly triggered bonus game.
Progressive slots take a tiny slice of each bet laid on the machine and add it to a prize pool. These games were initially played in big casino gaming halls. Eventually, technology made it possible to link up games across geographical locations. And the Internet, with its potentially global market of many millions of players, took these prizes into the space age and into orbit.
And these games can afford to offer penny stakes!
For example, Mega Moolah is the biggest prize game in the world. It has broken the world record for online slots play twice and regularly offers players prizes in the millions.
Those record playing wins often come from tiny amounts of money. For example, the £17million+ pay-out to a British former soldier that first brought Mega Moolah to the attention of the world’s media was won with a 25p bet. Not quite a penny, but in the penny slots range, and penny betting is available on this game.
Mega Moolah is a great example of a penny progressive. It offers an RTP of just 88.12%, which is awful by modern standards, with medium volatility that is bog-standard. But you can bet from 1p up to 6.25 on its 25 pay-lines (essentially a penny a pay-line), and potentially win 10s of millions of pounds.
Pennies at Risk: Volatility
Volatility is a useful measure with penny slots because it can help you pick the right game for you.
Volatility measures the amount of prizes awarded against their size. A high volatility game will award fewer prizes, but they will be bigger. A low volatility slot will offer more prizes, but they will be smaller. Most games are rated as medium volatility, somewhere in between the two.
Now, these measures aren’t scientific, but they do give a broad understanding of how a game will play. None of these volatility measures tells you how you will actually fare in a particular game, and the fewer big wins are calculated to total up to the same amounts as the many smaller wins to deliver the game’s RTP.
But, penny players who are looking for a more good-value experience are likely to prefer low volatility games because they’ll get more wins for their small stakes.
Playing Penny Slots to Win
The best way to not lose money by playing penny slots is to never play them.
This is an unpopular message with slots players for understandable reasons, but the truth of the gambling industry is that it would not exist as an industry (let alone an enormously profitable one) if it didn’t collect money from players. As the total revenue from bets and these companies all make a profit, it is clear that most gamblers lose most of the time.
The most important way to play is to play safely.
And here’s a free safe play tip for you – if you see a review or casino advice or listings site that appears to give you advice on how to win at slot games, please just browse away from that site. You cannot beat the commercial and mathematical realities of the industry. It is possible that you will win a huge life-changing amount of money on your first spin, but the longer you play for the more likely it is that you’ll contribute your share to the profits of the gaming industry. It’s all random, and there is no trick of gameplay, of staking, of timing or anything else that will get you around this cold, hard fact.
Playing Penny Slots Safely
So the best way to play penny slots is to play them with your own safety and enjoyment at the top of your agenda.
There should be good safe-play advice on any casino site that you use and we advise you to read it. It will advise you to take care of yourself while you play, to avoid playing while you’re distressed or in order to try to change your mood, it will advise you to play only with money you can afford to spend, and to never chase your losses.
So penny slots can be a good way to enjoy your gaming without getting into trouble. Accept that gambling is entertainment, and, as such, you will have to pay for your gaming experiences. You might win, you might not, but the healthiest, safest way to play is without even considering your winnings but just because you enjoy the games.
By keeping your stake low you help keep yourself away from the dangers of chasing big wins, but by picking – for example – a progressive penny slot, you give yourself the chance of snagging a life-changing one.
Whether you’re playing for pennies of pounds, a couple of quid or a million make sure you play for fun above all.