There are three basic types of progressives—single-machineFrank Legato is recognized nationally as an expert in the history and operations of slot machines. He regularly conducts seminars for both the professional trade and the playing public. Frank shares his 20 years of researching, writing about, and playing the slots in his book How to Win Millions Playing Slot Machines! ... or Lose Trying. progressives, local-area or “proprietary” progressives, and wide-area or multi-site progressives. Here’s how they work.
A single-machine progressive is the same as any other slot machine, except that the payback percentage is split between normal jackpots and a top prize that is incremented by a portion of each coin placed in the game. The top jackpot will start at a “reset” amount—the lowest top jackpot offered by the game—of, say, $1,000. The jackpot grows beyond that $1,000 with every coin placed in the game.
A local-area or proprietary progressive network is a group of slots within a single casino linked to a common jackpot. A jackpot controller links all the games in the property-wide network, and each coin placed in any of the machines increments that common prize. The larger the group of linked machines, the larger the jackpot—casinos will often use cars, boats or other tangible prizes as the top jackpot on these proprietary links. Most progressive video poker machines are linked via a local or proprietary network. These links can be particularly advantageous to the player, because a knowledgeable player can use the pay schedule to calculate when the level of the jackpot pushes the overall player return over 100 percent.
The wide-area progressive is normally the casino’s most high-profile link. Games in separate, competing casinos across a state—or in some Indian casinos, even multiple states—are linked electronically to one giant jackpot, which gets larger with every coin placed in every slot in every casino on the network. These are the famous, life-changing slot games — Megabucks, Wheel Of Fortune, Betty Boop, etc. In the wide-area game, the slot manufacturer owns the games and operates the jackpot network, and splits the revenue with the participating casinos.
For the mega-million-dollar jackpots, the manufacturer and the participating casinos will normally purchase an annuity policy to affect the payout of the jackpot to the winner over 20 years through compound interest on the policy. The purchase price of the policy guarantees that the jackpot will be paid out, even if the casino, the manufacturer or both go out of business.
Arguably the most common question on all types of progressives: How is the jackpot decided? The answer: the same way any jackpot on any slot machine is decided. The random number generator program in a single slot machine’s computer generates the numbers corresponding to the top jackpot. In a linked progressive network, the jackpot is a random choice of a single slot’s computer, independent of what is happening on any other slot on the progressive link. This is true whether the link is between two games in a single casino or among a thousand games across a state.
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