Progressive slot machines were introduced to the gaming market in 1986 by American slot machine manufacturer, International Gaming Technology (IGT). Until then, a slot machine payout would be limited to the amount set by the casino.
The progressive angle allowed the total available jackpot to increase with every bet contributed by a player, minus the amount taken by the casino to preserve the house edge.
But because the original progressive slots were still limited to one machine at a time, payouts remained modest compared to what they would become.
What revolutionized progressive slot play and the gaming industry as a whole was the networking of progressive machines. There are two types of progressive networks – local and wide-area.
Local area progressives provide larger potential jackpots than the original stand-alone machine because the contributions of all machines on the network add to the payout potential of one machine. However, because the local-area network may only contain up to a hundred machines, payouts usually do not exceed $100 000.
Big slot play these days requires wide-area progressive networks. As you have guessed, wide-area progressive machines are linked to a much greater number of machines, which include machines from other casinos across the state and sometimes across the country. For gamblers playing in states with a rich gaming culture, like Nevada or Pennsylvania, this means high jackpot potential, indeed!
To date, the largest progressive jackpot payout (and therefore the largest payout in slots history) took place at the Las Vegas Excalibur, on March 21, 2003. The largest in Las Vegas history, a software engineer spent $100 on IGT's Megabucks and won a total of $39 710 896.36, beating odds of 16.7 million against.
The following is a list of 7 of the best progressive slot machines in the world today.
First on the list is IGT Interactive's Megabucks. The first wide-area progressive machine to become available, Megabucks is still in very wide use. The Megabucks is a dollar slot game, with $3 bets required to qualify for the maximum jackpot. The jackpot base amount is $10 million, and once the progressive payout is made the machine is reset to the base.
The Megabucks has been the machine on record for some of the largest payouts in slot gaming history, including the aforementioned, number one ranked $39 million. As of this date, the latest Megabucks jackpot was hit on March 22, 2016 at the Gold Dust West Casino in Elko, Nevada, paying over $12.5 million. Between 1994 through 2009, Megabucks paid out a total of $1,239,830,000 in winnings, an annual average of $77 489 375. Winners have a choice between taking the entire payout in one sum or having it distributed over a 25-year period in annual installments.
Be aware that Megabucks gaming is available solely in Nevada. However, visitors to Nevada will have no problem finding a Megabucks machine to try their luck on. There are many dozens of casinos in and around the Las Vegas and Reno areas that employ Megabucks machines. According to a2zlasvegas website, Megabucks jackpot hits have been averaging 1 a year for the past few years, with the most number of jackpots topping 3 per year. However, with winnings consistently worth well over $10 million, Megabucks continues to attract the crowds.
Fans of the famous game show will feel at home with the Wheel of Fortune. Atop the machine is the iconic "Wheel" which is spun with every press of the button, accompanied with the game show theme music.
Produced by IGT, Wheel of Fortune games come with options of 25c, $1 and $5 betting levels. Wheel of Fortune Quarter requires 3 coins, or 75c bets, to qualify for jackpot hits. After a hit, the jackpot level is reset to $200 000. Of the Wheel of Fortune variations, the 25c version pays out smallest but more often, averaging the past several years at least one jackpot payout per month. A few of which paying over $1 million.
The Wheel of Fortune Dollar is a dollar slot that requires a $2 bet to qualify for the jackpot. Winners may also choose to receive payouts in 25 annual installments. The base is set at $1 million and the machine is reset to the base upon a jackpot hit. As of this date, the latest Wheel of Fortune $1 jackpot was hit on June 9, 2016 at the upscale Red Rock Casino and Spa in Las Vegas for $ 1,240,398.97.
Though these jackpots are considerably smaller than its Megabucks cousin, Wheel of Fortune Dollar does pay out more often. According to a2zlasvegas website, over the past two years there have been 17 jackpot payouts, all worth well over $1 million. Still enough jackpot to have made it worthwhile!
Wheel of Fortune Five Dollar is a $5 slot machine that requires two coins, or $10 bets, to qualify for the jackpot. After a jackpot hit the base is reset to $1 million. Winners have the option to receive payouts in annual installments.
Of the Wheel of Fortune slot franchise, and not unsurprisingly, the Five Dollar pays out least often, with jackpots ranging from one to no more than a handful per year, over the past 15 years. However, payouts are typically well over $1 million, while a few have exceeded $3 million.
Saturday Night Live by Bally Gaming is one of the Bally's more popular slots, due largely to the variations between versions of the game and the potential for high bonuses and networked progressive jackpots. Typically, the jackpot will start at $10 000 on individual machines and proceed. However, some machines are linked to local or wide-area networks increasing the payout potential considerably.
Examples on variations include The Church Lady, which offers a Canned Ham and Church Hat bonus play. Another version is Wayne's World that has a Guitar feature that provides up to 15 times the bet's value and an Offer feature that can multiply your bet's value by 1000. Thus, the potential for huge jackpot payouts.
IGT's Sex and the City slots have been a big hit in Vegas, perhaps partly due to the popular TV show from which it derives its name and brand. These slots have acquired a reputation for attracting single women, perhaps because of the show's audience and identity. It will help to be a big fan of the show to get most enjoyment from the play experience. Because of this, Sex and the City's manufacturer – IGT – went all out to create a very visually appealing machine with all the show's themes and icons a fan would expect.
Another reason may be the fact they are technically penny slots, and so a play can cost much less than the other progressive slot games mentioned in this list. Sex and the City slots are also 4 in 1 games, offering a lot of variation in play. However, for maximum play experience, it is required to play all four screens at once. Since each play per screen is 50c a maximum play is $2, which is getting up into maximum progressive wide-area slot play.
The game offers nine bonus rounds where a player may enhance winnings. Each round is represented by a particular character from the show with show-themed scenarios, like Mr. Big or shopping for shoes. Fans of the series won't want to miss this one.
Millionaire 777s have the reputation for providing more frequent payouts, with a chance to win $1 million every 107 spins. The base jackpot is $1 million and is returned to that after a jackpot hit. The most recent jackpot hit occurred April 8, 2015 at the California Hotel and Casino, for $1,168,555.17.
Powerbucks is a wide-area linked progressive slot game that links machines in Nevada with machines in South Dakota and New Jersey.
As of this date, the most recent Powerbucks jackpot was hit June 2, 2015, at Orleans Hotel and Casino, for just over $1.35 million.
Quartermania is a progressive slot game that is linked within a wide-area system to casinos in Nevada and New Jersey. It can be found within a few dozen casinos in and around Las Vegas. Quartermania is a game that allows for more frequent play due to lower required bets but can still provide a whopping payout. The highest payout is over $178 000 and the most recent was on April 4, 2016 at the Tropicana in Atlantic City.
Wide-area progressive slots have gained the reputation of providing life-changing payouts and are typically well over $1 million. For this reason, the area around linked progressive machines tends to be one of the busiest in a casino, electric with the lights and sounds of the bells and the anticipation of extravagant winnings. If you decide to play a progressive slot you will notice the winnings potential increase in large, brightly lit numbers on the front. This adds to the excitement of progressive slot machine play.
Of course, also adding to the excitement is the knowledge that you, as the player, are not only competing against the odds set by the random number generator that exists inside each machine, but also against other players. Since there can be many thousands of machines connected to a wide-area network, including systems that extend both through-out and across state lines, you could be playing simultaneously with many thousands of players – all going for the same jackpot. In odds terms, the mathematical probability of hitting the jackpot is roughly 1 in 49 836 032, calculated in 1999 by Jack Robison.
One thing however, to be aware of is the minimum required bet. Most progressive machines require a minimum bet for each play in order for the player to qualify for the maximum jackpot. For example, if the minimum bet is a $2 coin and you play a $1 coin, and win, your bet did not qualify you for the available progressive jackpot. The result is you may still have a nice payout – say, $5000 – even if the potential payout was in the millions.
As you can imagine this could be quite a shock if you thought you were playing for the maximum jackpot. Don't worry though. Each machine should clearly state what the minimum bet is in order to qualify for the progressive jackpot. If you cannot find the information on the front of the machine, check the machine's "Help" menu. Failing that, ask an attendant to show you where the minimum bet is located in writing. I do not recommend asking a fellow player as they may also be misled.
Progressive slots over wide-area networks offer the responsible gambler yet another thrill in his or her casino gameplay. As ever, budget aside a reasonable and affordable bankroll, monitor the time spent and you can spend an enjoyable hour or so always one bet away from making gaming history and going home truly rich.