SLOT MACHINES GET ‘PROGRESSIVE’ FOR BIGGER JACKPOTS

In the early 1980’s, video slot machines had become widespread and accepted among players who once doubted their veracity. The electromagnetic machines and their spinning reels were being replaced–slowly at first but surely–by machines where the spinning reels were simulated on a video screen attached to a computer random number generator (RNG). The games were as truly random as humanly possible due to the design of the RNG and the advancing technology allowed manufacturers to do more interesting things with the graphics and game interface.

That being said, the game was clearly still the same. The transition from analog to video notwithstanding, a slot machine and its gameplay in the early 1980’s would have been easily understood by players at the turn of the century. There was new technology ‘under the hood‘ but once a turn of the century player accepted the video reels everything else was basically the same. The technology continued to advance, however, as slot machine manufacturers strategized on how to leverage these new tools to enhance the player’s experience and the casino’s profitability.

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COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY CHANGES THE GAME…AGAIN

Interestingly, it was the ‘father of the video poker machineSi Redd and his company (IGT) that also developed the progressive jackpot. The first progressive jackpot slot machines were on proprietary networks inside the casino. A few machines or a few banks of machines will be networked together with a percentage of each coin in going to the jackpot pool. When the jackpot is hit, the game resets and the process starts over. Video slots had opened the door for more possible outcomes since there was no physical limit to the size of the reels or number of symbols. The initial progressive slots gained some traction but didn’t exactly ‘blow up‘ among the gambling public.

That changed with the next IGT innovation–the area-wide network progressive. The company took a basic progressive slot machine schedule and leveraged it into a statewide network of interlinked slot machines. Eventually, just about every casino in the state would offer these networked slots at their property and the ‘Megabucks’ game became one of the most popular and enduring brands in the history of Nevada’s gaming industry. The jackpot started at a million dollars (later increased to $10 million) and quickly increased from there as players flocked to the new machines. The jackpots climbed to insane levels and the biggest slot machine wins in the history of Nevada’s casino industry have been on ‘Megabucks‘ machines. The biggest? In 2003, a player ‘invested’ $100 in a Megabucks machine at the Excalibur and hit the largest slot jackpot in history for a cool $39,710,826.36. The odds of hitting the jackpot at the time were 1 in 16.7 million.

PROGRESSIVE JACKPOTS ARE BIG BUSINESS

Progressive jackpots are now very common in every gaming jurisdiction. Every Nevada casino has their own progressive slots and video poker machines and now offer a variety of area-wide network progressives. The progressive jackpot is also used by every state lottery and networked games like ‘Powerball’ are among the most popular games among lottery players.

They’ve also become part of the online casino experience. Most online casinos offer their own progressive jackpot games and there have been attempts at ‘networking’ jackpots between casinos. The progressive jackpots were hugely innovative–it was the first use of advances in technology to fundamentally change the real money slot machine gaming experience.