Progressive Slots – The Big Payers in the Casino

Slots can be entertaining no matter the size of the prizes they award but nothing quite compares to the thrill of chasing after a life-changing jackpot. In some slots, the jackpots escalate to immense proportions, reaching seven and even eight-figure amounts.

Known as progressives, such games have a huge winning potential because all players who spin their reels contribute to the prize pools with their betting action. This results in life-changing jackpots like the one won by British player Jon Heywood. Said gentleman made it to the Guinness Book of World Records after winning £13.2 million on the Mega Moolah slot back in 2015.

Not all progressive slots award such enormous prizes but having the opportunity to bag a six-figure amount is an equally attractive prospect. Keep reading as we discuss the types of progressive slots, their winning criteria, who pays the huge prizes, and what the odds of hitting the jackpot are.

Types of Progressive Slots Based on Pool Growth

Let's begin with a brief explanation of what a progressive jackpot is for the uninitiated. Simply put, this is a pool of money that goes to the player who triggers the jackpot. This usually happens when you land a special combination of symbols, although winning criteria differ between games as you shall see later. The jackpot is not a flat amount as is the case in regular slots but grows continually, instead.

The prize pool is built from the betting action of all participating players that wager on a specific slot machine. A portion of each player's bet is subtracted and added to the constantly growing pool. The said portion is usually around 1% but this percentage varies depending on which slot you are playing. What remains of the bet is used as normal for each particular spin.

The jackpot starts growing from a specific seed amount that is contributed either by the casino or by the software provider supplying the game. Here is a breakdown of how this works.

  • A software supplier contributes a starting seed of $1 million for one of its progressive slots.
  • The minimum bet the slot accepts stands at $0.50.
  • 1% is subtracted from each bet and added to the slot's progressive pool.
  • Half a cent of each minimum wager (0.50 x 0.01 = 0.005) goes toward the jackpot.
  • Higher bets naturally have a higher contribution. A $2 bettor would contribute two cents per wager and so on.

Only a tiny portion is deducted from qualifying bets, so how do the jackpots escalate to such heights? It's simple. Progressive slots are aggressively marketed by casinos as games with enormous winning potential, which they, understandably, are.

Because of this, casino goers are drawn to progressive slots as flies are drawn to sugar. With so much betting action, it is only natural for the pools to grow to massive proportions, albeit in very small increments.

Once the jackpot hits, the casino resets it back to the initial seed amount and the accumulation starts all over again. It continues until another lucky player bags the progressive prize and resets it to the seed amount again.

Progressive games like Mega Moolah feature jackpots with multiple tiers – the Mini, Minor, Major, and Mega levels. When one of the four is won, only that specific pool is reset to its seed amount while the other three pots continue to grow from the amounts they have currently reached. Now that we have gotten this out of the way, let's examine the three types of progressive slots based on pool growth.

Standalone Progressive Slots
Linked Progressive Slots
Wide-Area Progressive Slots

Types of Progressive Slots Based on Winning Criteria

Progressive slots can also be categorized based on winning criteria. It is always a good idea to check the paytable beforehand and see what the qualifying terms for the jackpot are because there are discrepancies from one game to another.

Whatever the criteria are, the jackpot drop is always produced by a Random Number Generator that relies on complex algorithms. This makes it impossible to predict with certainty exactly when the huge prize will hit.

Symbol-Driven Progressive Jackpots
Progressive Slots With a Boiling Point
Slots With Randomly Awarded Jackpots

Who Pays the Prize when a Progressive Jackpot is Won?

1Paid by the Software Studios

Progressive slots sometimes pay in the millions so the question arises “Who pays such massive sums of money to the lucky winners?”. With online progressives, like those developed by Microgaming, NetEnt, Playtech and the likes, the jackpots are normally paid by the software studios themselves. They also secure the seed amounts after the pools are reset.

This way, smaller online gambling operators do not have to deal with the massive losses that would otherwise result from such life-changing payouts. Moreover, wide-area jackpots build from players betting at many different casinos. It would be ludicrous to expect from a single operator to pay out a wide-area pot.

2Limits on Players' Withdrawals

Depending on where you play, the massive prize may be paid in a single installment, which is usually the case with landbased jackpot winners. However, online gambling operators normally impose weekly and monthly limits on players’ withdrawals to prevent money laundering.

The monthly limit typically ranges anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000 depending on where you play. With such restrictions in place, withdrawing a seven-figure progressive jackpot can take years until the player finally cashes out everything in full.

3Exceptions for Progressive Payouts

With that said, some gambling operators make an exception for progressive payouts and lift the withdrawal restrictions for jackpot winners. The entire sum is paid in one installment. Microgaming-powered casinos that offer the Mega Moolah slot are some of the examples we know of.

If you have your eyes set on winning a progressive pot, you should carefully read the terms and conditions of your casino of choice to acquaint yourself with its withdrawal policies in such cases.

Progressive Slots - Odds, Marketing, Wins and Taxes

More Likely to be Struck by a Lightning

Progressive Slots and Marketing

Progressive Slot Wins and Taxes

What about Slot Losses?

The odds of slots, including the progressive varieties, are measured in terms of payback percentages, also known as theoretical return to player (RTP). The RTP reflects the statistical average of all wagers the machine theoretically returns to players in the long run.

This average is cumulative, i.e. it is spread over millions of spins and applies to all players who bet on the respective slot. Since casinos operate their games for profit, payout percentages are inevitably below 100%. This is to say slots yield a negative expectation for the player and will eat up their budget sooner or later.

The lower the payout percentage is, the quicker a game would devour your bankroll. Another way to think of it is as if you are flipping a coin and betting on the outcomes of the flips. The odds of each outcome, heads or tails, are equal with a fair coin, or 50 to 50.

If you win a flip with a dollar bet but are paid only ninety cents, the theoretical return of the game would be only 90%, which gives a 10% statistical edge to the person that pays you out. Play this game long enough and you are guaranteed to part with your money.

The statistical edge of the house is built into all casino games, including progressive slots. It is a direct result of the discrepancy between the true odds of winning and the odds the casino offers for successful bets. The same goes for slots linked to progressive pools.

Such games offer attractive prizes but this comes at the expense of lower player return percentages. The RTP for regular payouts is reduced to compensate for the fraction of each bet that feeds the jackpot. Therefore, a game that would otherwise pay 97% would offer only a 95% or a 94% return if we account for the contribution toward the progressive pools.

A game’s overall RTP assumes that the player would sometimes win the progressive prize. However, the reels are weighted in such a way so that the actual chances of scoring the pot are astronomically small even if you go through many, many spins.

If you never win the jackpot in your lifetime, the RTP goes further down. Mega Moolah, for example, returns a theoretical average of 88% in the base game but the figure goes over 96% with the jackpot attached.

Some people say winning a progressive prize is akin to a lightning strike. In reality, this is not the case. You stand better chances of being struck by a lightning than winning a progressive jackpot. According to National Geographic, the probability of getting struck by a lightning in the United States in any given year are 1 in 700,000 while that of becoming a lightning victim over your entire lifespan is 1 in 3,000.

For reference, the probability of winning the progressive jackpot in IGT’s Megabucks is roughly 1 in 50 million trials. A player would need an enormous bankroll to survive such devastating variance when playing for a six or seven-figure progressive prize.

Last, but far from least, progressive slots do not get “hot” or “cold” as some players are quick to assume. No betting system or strategy is capable of boosting your chances of pocketing the big prize. The odds of collecting that coveted oversized check remain the same on each spin of the reels.

The jackpot is never “due” to hit regardless of how big it has gotten (unless it has a boiling point, of course). A progressive machine does not grow cold because it has recently awarded its top payout and vice versa.

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Things to Consider when Looking for Value in Progressive Jackpot Slots

As we already explained, slots with progressive jackpots have lower return percentages to compensate for the amounts deducted from bets to fuel the prize pools. This does not mean it is impossible to find value in such games, however.

Some clueless players try to find said value by evaluating how “cold” or “hot” a given machine is. In their eyes, a slot that has paid a big progressive jackpot only recently is a total waste of time because it is unlikely to spew another huge amount of money so soon.

There is no logic in this reasoning, though. It is irrelevant for the Random Number Generator when the game has last paid and how much. Below, we offer you several smarter ways to assess a progressive slot's value and find decent games.

Hit Frequency of the Jackpot
Average Jackpot Payout
Break-Even Points of Progressive Slots