Progressive jackpots are the “dream weavers” of casinos. They offer the highest payouts of all games available, far surpassing keno and on par with some state lotteries. The biggest of them reach well into seven or eight figures.
Progressive slots may appear as either stand-alone machines or in a group. They often look just like classic slots, but the big difference is a top prize that simply grows and grows until it is claimed. The current value of the jackpot will most often be displayed on a brightly lit marquee directly above the machine. Its numbers are constantly changing, getting bigger, rather like a car’s odometer showing more and more miles.
The cash to fund the huge jackpot comes from a tiny percentage of each bet made on the game. In time, these small amounts can become enough to make an instant millionaire out of the eventual winner. The odds may be strongly against hitting the winning combination, but for those who want to strike it rich, the potential reward is well worth the cost and high risk involved.
The very first progressive jackpot slot was called Megabucks, and it too the casino industry by storm. Never before had so much cash been offered for a slot game. The year was 1986, and the company who introduced Megabucks was International Game Technology (IGT), one of the world’s top slot machine manufacturers.
The key to putting up a progressive jackpot was the ability to interlink of machines. They are connected to other machines in banks, with other groups of machines in the same casino, or with all of the similar machines installed in participating casinos. It is a syndicate, of sorts, with those who belong to it sharing the risk and the income. In the case of Megabucks, 691 machines were linked at 160 casinos throughout Las Vegas.
The progressive slots play just like standard classic slots do, reels spinning and coming to rest so that payouts can be awarded for winners on the center payline. But one innovation besides the big jackpot makes them different; to win the top prize, the player must have bet the maximum allowed when catching the exact combination of symbols called for. In the case of Megabucks, a single Max Bet spin costs $3.
The names of early winners were shrouded in secrecy in the early days of progressive jackpots. Casinos relished the publicity, but they valued the privacy of their customers even more. Today, progressive games are much more common, especially those such as Quarter Million$ and Cartoon Jackpot, which pay out grand prizes of under $1 million. Players nowadays don’t mind showing off a bit. Some even have their pictures taken receiving their checks and then mounted on the machines they won at.
It is hard to imagine how life might change if on one pull of a slot handle several million dollars was won. In the first 17 years after Megabucks was launched, there were 58 jackpot winners, none of whom took away less than the $7 million used to initiate the prize pool. Their combined jackpots totaled more than $425 million.
There is no special strategy to winning a big progressive jackpot, other than it is necessary to play at Max Bet to claim the top prize. Some winners have caught it spending less that $20. Others play for weeks, months, and years, often coming close but never seeing the elusive three jackpot symbols align on the center payline. As stated at the start—it’s a dream weaver, and certainly worth an occasional try.