Progressive slots are machines with a top jackpot that grows as more customers pay into the prize pool. The word progressive refers to the ever-increasing prize total, which in online format (as opposed to on a brick-and-mortar casino floor) is displayed on the screen. Like their land-based cousins, online progressives are linked in networks, either to other titles on the same casino site or across a large number of related Internet casinos.

Like progressive games in traditional casino settings, the top jackpot for these online machines continues to grow until a player on any machine connected to the network spins the right combination of symbols; the specific symbols or bonuses that reward the ever-increase max payout varies depending on the game.

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More about Progressive Jackpots

When looking through an online casino’s game library, machines with prizes like this are clearly marked. Sometimes they are set apart in their own category, sometimes they are marked with a special tag or symbol, and other times the site displays their various progressive jackpot totals under the game titles or on a sidebar on the home page.

The jackpots are assembled by taking small portions of all the wagers placed by gamblers on any title in that particular slot network. Once the top prize is won, the total shrinks to a specific reset amount. That amount varies with the network.
The main factor affecting the dollar value when the prize resets is the size of the network itself. Gamblers interested in learning more specific details about triggering a game’s progressive prize, the jackpots’ reset amount, or any other details about a particular progressive online jackpot should look at the site’s slot rules pages or load the game interface of the slot itself.

Web-based casinos put together progressive jackpots the same way traditional betting venues do – shaving off a small percentage of each bet put into machines on the same progressive network and adding them to the constantly increasing jackpot total. Winning any of these jackpots means spinning a specific symbol combination or winning a difficult bonus game – and some titles have tiers of large jackpots for gamblers who come close to completing the progressive payout but not close enough – it’s common for there to be three or four tiers to the jackpot, with only the highest one actually ticking up over time.

Why Online Gambling Sites Offer Progressive Slots

Many different games of chance have this type of prize built into them, but slot machines in land-based casinos were the first to use this technique. The appeal of the prize read-out (which online casinos set up much like the digital displays used for this type of prize in traditional casinos) is easy to understand: many slot machine fans are more interested in big prizes, jackpots, and bonus payouts than the smaller (but more common) wins.

To make up for the big check the casino has to occasionally cut to a lucky slot machine gambler, casinos that host progressive machines program them to offer a slightly worse payout percentage. The trade-off of a few percentage points is the kind of thing a jackpot-chaser is happy to accept in exchange for the chance at a six-figure payday.

No two slot games are alike, and the rules, payback percentages, and other features vary from site to site. Remember also that payback percentage is just a theoretical number – every time a player sets the machine’s reels in motion, they do stand a chance at winning that huge top prize. It’s an unlikely chance from a statistical standpoint, but it’s still a chance.

The types of gamblers attracted to progressive online slots are those who like to take risks. For one thing, progressives are usually only paid out to players who place maximum bets, and depending on the credit size and the number of pay lines that must be activated to be eligible for the biggest progressives, this usually means spending (at very least) $10-$20 per spin.

Yes, the odds against winning these rewards are long; a good comparison in terms of the statistical probability of landing a progressive machine’s jackpot is to think of it as the same odds of being the only winner in a state lottery. Casinos know that many of their slot customers are happy to play against long odds for a chance at winning a payout much higher than the standard top prize for a non-progressive machine.

Current Progressive Jackpots by US State

Players can search for the current totals on the progressive jackpots by U.S. state these days. Obviously, some of the states are going to have more than others. These progressives increase in real-time on your computer screen. Let me give an example.

The Nevada slots jackpot information you can find on the Internet is amazing. At the moment, you’ll see several Wheel of Fortune Slots jackpots, including prizes of $2,712,186 and counting right beside another for $1,370,289 and counting. The top $5 Wheel of Fortune slots prize right now is worth $2,118,269.88, while the top $1.00 Wheel of Fortune jackpot is worth $1,845,861.68. If you prefer the $0.50 slot machine progressive, it’s sitting at $1,370,289.71, while the 25-cent Wheel of Fortune Slots jackpot is currently at $675.160.74 and counting. The Special Edition Wheel of Fortune gave is the first one listed, sitting at $2.7 million.

Wheel of Fortune isn’t the only progressive slots machine you can get up-to-date information on. The biggest jackpot in Nevada at the moment is the Megabucks Slots jackpot, which sits at $15,686,761.42 and counting. Money Madness Slots has a jackpot over $1.9 million, while TV Hits Slots has a progressive of $340 thousand. The licensed Elvis Slots game offers a $555,440.17 jackpot, though it doesn’t increase nearly as fast.

Not all states are going to has as much data as the state with casinos all over Las Vegas and Reno. In fact, many of the American states aren’t going to have information at all. Texas, Utah, KentuckyOhio, Illinois, and Hawaii are just some of the states which aren’t likely to show up on any search. At the same time, I found progressive slot machine jackpot information for ArizonaCalifornia, Colorado, Connecticut, DelawareFloridaIdahoIowaKansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota,  West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In fact, if you’re looking for the best jackpots in your region, do a search for your state and “current progressive jackpots”.

Progressive Slots: Recent Winners

Those wanting to know about the latest winners in hopes of finding the hot jackpots (or the reset jackpots they should avoid) can find a similar list of recent winners. As of October 11, 2012, the latest winners listed are Tammy Houston, who won the 25¢ Wheel of Fortune Slots jackpot at the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma on August 31, 2012. This jackpot was worth $123,223. MaryAnn Buzzeo won the 25¢ Wheel of Fortune progressive at the Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut. In this case, the jackpot was won on July 29 and the prize amount was $140,956. Harold Druschke won $105,198 on the 25¢ Wheel of Fortune progressive jackpot at the Mole Lake Casino in Nashville,  Wisconsin on July 25, 2012. These can be searched for by month (I missed September) and do include more than just the one brand of slot machine, though the smaller prizes do hit more often. In fact, you can find a list of the biggest jackpots in US casino history, if you so wish.

Biggest Las Vegas Jackpots

The biggest Las Vegas progressive jackpot ever was $39,710,826.36. This was won on March 23, 2003 by a 25 year old software engineer visiting Las Vegas from Los Angeles. The prize was won at the Excalibur Casino on a $100 Megabucks slot machine. The odds of hitting the jackpot were 16.7 million to 1. This progressive jackpot remains the world record holder for slots.

  • $39,710,826.36 – Anonymous Software Engineer – $100 Megabucks Slots – Excalibur Casino – March 23, 2003
  • $34,955,489.56 – Cynthia Jay-Brennan – Megabucks Slots – Desert Inn Casino – January 26, 2000
  • $27,580,879.60 – Anonymous Flight Attendant – Megabucks Slots – Palace Station Casino – November 15, 1998
  • $22,618,156.67 – Johanna Huendl – Megabucks Slots – Bally’s Casino – March 27, 2002
  • $21,346,952.22 – Anonymous Business Consultant – Megabucks Slots – Caesars Palace – June 1, 1999
  • $21,147,947.00 – Elmer Sherwin – Megabucks Jackpot – Cannery Casino – September 15, 2002
  • $12,700,000.00 – Anonymous Woman and Her Niece – Megabucks Jackpot – Aria Casino – January 21, 2011
  • $10,600,000.00 – Anonymous – Megabucks Machine – Aria Casino – April 22, 2011
  • $2,882,808.32 – Alexander Degenhardt – Money Vault Millionaires Seven – The Bellagio – February 19, 2012

After seeing this information, it shouldn’t take a world class gambler to figure out the Megabucks machines offer the biggest payouts. The Megabucks Slot Machine began in 1986, though it took until 1995 before the first $10 million jackpot was registered at the Gold Coast Casino in Paradise, Nevada–Megabucks slots are found in several cities across the state of Nevada. The prize money has been steadily climbing ever since.

Progressive Jackpot Urban Legends

Urban legends have grown up about the progressive slot jackpots. In fact, the most prominent urban legend is like the lottery jackpot urban legend which says that winners are cursed. In the case of the Megabucks winners, this is traced to the case of Cynthia Jay-Brennan, the #2 prize winner. Six weeks after winning her Megabucks jackpot, a serial drunk driver slammed into her car, killing her sister and paralyzing Mrs. Jay-Brennan. That tragedy started the legend, but people should understand that Johanna Huendl, Elmer Sherwin, or that mysterious software designer from LA aren’t known to have encountered any more tragedy than anyone else–though I suppose Elmer Sherwin would be 102 if he were still alive. The point being, winning at the progressive slots is a massively lucky thing to do, but I wouldn’t worry about playing the progressive slots for fear of some karmic payback. Someone has to win.