The BAR symbol found in slot machines has a unique history with an overall unclear origin, though many link it to a time when gambling was outlawed and player per paid in gum. It may have also been used to commemorate the Bell-Fruit Gum Company.

The BAR symbol, a timeless icon in slot machines, has captivated slot players and the gaming industry for decades. Its black-and-white rectangular appearance makes it easy to distinguish from other slot symbols, such as the Cherry, Lemon, and Watermelon.

During the Prohibition Era in American history, the bar symbol represented a rebellious and clandestine culture. People defied the law by indulging in underground bars, creating a mysterious and exciting atmosphere.

What is the Historical Background of the Bar Symbol

The reasoning behind the symbols that were picked for these machines during prohibition in several US districts is that gambling was illegal. The companies that invented these machines had to devise an inventive way to get around the laws at the time. The fruit symbols represented the candy or gum that the patron received during a jackpot.

Due to laws and regulations regarding gambling, a new type of machine called a chewing gum dispenser was invented to give out gum, which is where the BAR symbol comes into play. The Mills Novelty Companies logo was a stick of gum, so when making their new machines, they included their logo.

Of course, you cannot have gum without flavors, which is how your fruit symbols came about. If you received three cherries, you would get a pack of cherry gum or a hard candy that was cherry-flavored; if you got three lemons, you would receive a lemon-flavored piece of hard candy and the same for three melons.

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The actual reasoning behind the BAR symbol is unclear. However, there are numerous theories, including gum being a form of payment during times when this type of play was illegal or to commemorate the Bell-Fruit Company and their logo. 

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The bar symbol, typically associated with drinks and socializing, took on a whole new meaning during this period, symbolizing a form of resistance and a desire for freedom. It added an element of thrill and risk to the gambling scene, reflecting the spirit of defiance and adventure that defined the Prohibition Era. 

He used the liberty bell to appeal to the American citizens because it brought to mind the idea of freedom. In the early 20th century, fruit machines appeared in taverns, speakeasies, and tobacco shops across the US.

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The Evolution of the Bar Symbol

The evolution of the BAR symbol is fascinating; It has transformed from a simple black-and-white design to some modern versions that feature sleek curves and unique patterns, and more elaborate versions have different primary and neon color styles. The symbol has adapted to fit various slot themes and aesthetics in modern slot games, keeping players and slot machine developers engaged and intrigued. 

Examples of BAR symbol design changes.

1. Double Diamonds

2. Flaming Chilis by Booming Games

3. Hit Bar by Playtech Origins

4. Cash or Nothing by Red Tiger Gaming

Classic Slot Machine Symbols

Oldest to Newest

This is a list of classic slot machine symbols that were used for the very first slot machine invented till the conception of the BAR Symbol during the Prohibition Era.

  1. Liberty Bell: This is used to represent the first slot machine, which was invented by Charles Fey in the late 19th century. 

  2. Card Suits/Card Symbols: These are typically lower-value symbols but are found with traditional playing cards. 

  3. Horseshoes: This is a symbol that many consider to be “lucky,” adding to the chance of winning with slots. 

  4. Diamonds: Often associated with luxury, these could be for higher payouts. 

  5. Star: Could represent luck or fame. 

  6. Four Leaf Clover: Another symbol for “luck.”

  7. BAR symbol: Could feature single, double, or triple bars. 

  8. Fruits, e.g. (Cherries, Lemons, Bananas, Oranges, Strawberries, Plums, Watermelons, Grapes.)

  9. Lucky Sevens.: A seven is another symbol or in this case, a number, associated with luck. 

The Bar Symbol in Contemporary Slot Machines

Modern slot machines showcase the BAR symbol in diverse ways, including classic designs, creative interpretations, and themed gameplay on video slots.

The single BAR has evolved from one single bar to double and triple bars. Single bars typically offer the lowest payout, followed by double and triple bars, which usually provide the highest payout.

Fun Fact:

On old mechanical slots, like those made with the original bar symbols, it was simple to see how tight the machine was or what your probabilities of winning were simply by counting the number of bars or other symbols on the reels. The most common was a 20-symbol reel, with three reels in total. The more bars on each reel, the more likely you were to win. 

 Each variation adds excitement and potential wins to the slot experience. On some present-day slot games, if a combination of different bars appears on the slots reels, it can unlock bonus features such as free spins or a bonus multiplier, where you pick three matching symbols or an increase in the payout amount.


The BAR symbol legacy in slot machines dates back to the early days of classic slot machines. It is a classic icon that has become a staple in slot machine design, adding nostalgia and familiarity to the gaming experience.  The bar symbol’s legacy continues to evolve with modern slot games, offering unique bonuses and enhanced gameplay for players to enjoy for decades more to come.

In the present day, the BAR symbol remains a staple at slot machines everywhere and continues to have an aura around it as no one truly knows its origins. Was it used for machines to payout sticks of gum instead of cash to circumvent rules and regulations? Was it an homage to the Bell-Fruit Gum Company? No one really knows. 

A noteworthy, exciting fact during the Prohibition era was that because of the restrictions in place during that time of history, when a patron received a jackpot, they would have to go to the bar and collect their winnings in lieu of cigars, cocktails, or cash. For thrill-seekers, this was the ultimate element of adventure and risk. 


Where can I find classic slot machines with Bar Symbol in Vegas?

If you are one of the many people who prefer classic slot machines over the modern ones you can find mostly today, here is a list of five casinos in Vegas that have some of those hard-to-find slot machines. 

  1. The D Hotel and Casino has rows of classic slot machines on the second floor, transporting you back to a bygone era.

  2. Mainstreet Hotel, Casino, and Brewery have a few of the remaining original slot machines, though they are no longer functional.

  3. The Golden Nugget has Eight Feet tall Jumbo Vegas Slots. 

  4. The Four Queens has Silver Strike machines that dispense souvenir tokens containing real silver or traditional currency. 

  5. Circus Circus Hotel and Casino classic coin machines.

When was the first Slot Machine Invented?

The first modern slot machine was invented in 1894 by Charles Fey. Initially, he was a mechanic from San Franciso. He invented the first coin-operated machines.

Where Did the Bar Symbol itself come from?

While the BAR Symbol is an often-used symbol at slot machines, people often have questions about its history and how it became the most used symbol out of all the classic slot machine symbols.

When you research the BAR symbol, you will see that the bar design is meant to resemble the Bell Fruit Gum company logo, but historically, there isn’t much evidence that this is true.

Some even go as far as to say that the whole gum company idea was an urban myth that allowed early slot machine providers an out if they were raided. In any case, it has always signified a jackpot, which continues today.

What is the difference between Bars and Bells?

The difference between bars and bells lies in the decision around 1902 to make slot machines illegal. The Liberty bells in the early Charles Fey-designed machines would ring a bell when three of them lined up on the pay line. They were designed with other elements like horseshoes and casino paraphernalia like diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs. These original five-cent machines sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.

After slot prohibition, this appeal to gambling symbols had to be toned down so as not to bring too much attention, so later machines had the bar symbol, along with fruit symbols like cherries, lemons, and melons.

Kevin Lentz
Kevin Lentz

Kevin Lentz has spent the last 30+ years in casino management, overseeing slot and table game departments, poker rooms, and sports books. While he remains active in land-based casino management, he often writes about the online gambling world, and you can find his work regularly in the New York Post, US Sun, and many other prominent publications focused on the gaming industry.