Progressive Jackpots in Casinos – How Does a Jackpot Work?

Progressive jackpots

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Last Updated: April 1, 2022


Progressive Jackpots in Casinos – How Does a Jackpot Work?

You may have noticed that casinos divide their slot games primarily into standard slots and jackpot slots. Moreover, when it comes to jackpot slots, you can also find a subsection of games called progressive jackpot slots.

So, what are progressive jackpot slots, and how can they pay out mind-boggling amounts of money?

In this detailed guide on progressive jackpots, we’ll explain what these games are and how they work to help you better understand how you can win playing such a game.

Additionally, we’ll also share some useful tips and strategies for playing progressive jackpots. So, without wasting any time, let’s jump right into it.

What Are Progressive Jackpots & How Does a Jackpot Work?

A progressive jackpot slot is a slot with a jackpot main prize. But, what makes a progressive jackpot slot different from a regular one is that its main prize increases every time any gambler plays it.

The way that progressive jackpot prizes are funded is that a small percentage of every player’s bet is put directly into the prize pool.

Often, there’s a set minimum jackpot amount. For example, the iconic Megabucks progressive jackpot slot has a minimum jackpot prize of $10 million. Meaning, every time it’s reset, the lowest amount it starts from is $10 million.

How does jackpot work

What’s more, most often, it will continue increasing until a lucky player triggers the jackpot. This is why we’ve seen dozens of progressive jackpots valued at tens of millions of dollars.

After a fortunate gambler triggers the main prize, the progressive jackpot resets and starts growing again.

Progressive Jackpot Slots House Edge

Another important aspect of progressive jackpots that we should address is the house edge. Like any other casino game, progressive jackpots have a built-in house advantage. This is the way the casino earns steady profits over time.

And when it comes to this, the house edge can differ significantly based on whether you’re playing online or in a land-based casino, as well as based on the software provider whose game you’re playing.

That said, progressive jackpots generally have a significantly higher house edge than the one you’ll find on classic slot games.

Most big-name progressive jackpot slots usually have a house edge between ten and fifteen percent.

Additionally, there’s a common misconception that casinos earn a profit also by taking a cut from the winner’s jackpot amount.

However, this is not true, as you get paid the full amount. The casino doesn’t care whether you win or lose, as it already took its cut.

Types of Progressive Jackpot Slots

There are three main types of progressive jackpot slots, each with its specific features, advantages, and drawbacks.

Knowing which type of progressive jackpot you’re playing before you actually start doing so can be very valuable, based on your preferences. From that perspective, here’s a closer look at the type of progressive jackpot slots:

Wide Area Progressive Jackpots

Wide area progressive jackpots are a very interesting type of casino progressive jackpot slots. These are games connected across several venues in the same city or even state.

That is to say, many players can play the exact version of the game in different locations and be eligible for the same progressive jackpot.

With that in mind, the main advantage of wide area progressive jackpots is pretty apparent. As there are more players contributing to the prize pool, the main jackpot grows very fast and can often go into millions of dollars, depending on the game.

For every bet that a player makes playing a progressive jackpot slot, a portion goes to the jackpot. The more gamblers play it, the faster the jackpot prize grows.

That said, as there are so many players playing simultaneously is also a drawback. To be more precise, the vast majority of gamblers won’t win anything, while only a few lucky gamblers will go home with millions.

Local Area Progressive Jackpots

In comparison, local area progressive jackpots are the opposite of wide area slots, as they only operate within the physical area of the venue that features them. In other words, local area progressive slots are individual.

Considering this, they also have entirely opposite pros and cons.

More precisely, the number of players playing the game simultaneously will be significantly smaller. On the other hand, the progressive jackpot itself will also be smaller, as there are fewer players contributing to it.

So, while this isn’t inherently better or worse than wide area progressive slots, it primarily depends on what type of game suits you better.

Standalone Progressive Jackpots

Lastly, you can also play standalone progressive jackpots. As you may have caught on from the previous two types, this is a type of progressive slot that is not connected to any other machine.

So, only the player that is currently playing the slot can trigger the jackpot. Naturally, this means that there’s no competition, as you’re the only one playing.

Progressive jackpot slots

Of course, the obvious disadvantage is that the progressive jackpot won’t be nearly as generous as that of a local area progressive jackpot, let alone a wide area progressive jackpot.

Standalone progressive jackpots are the rarest type of progressive jackpot slot, and you won’t find it in every casino.

How to Trigger a Progressive Jackpot

The trigger mechanism or mini-game that actually brings up the game’s main jackpot varies from slot to slot. That said, most progressive jackpots in casinos pay out in one of the three main ways:

  • Matching Symbols – This is the classic way that has existed ever since the first progressive slots first came out. The main concept relies on matching a certain number of specific symbols on your reels. This is the most straightforward and most common type of progressive jackpot payout design you’ll come across playing these games.
  • Collecting Symbols – Some progressive jackpot slots come in a format in which you trigger the main prize by collecting specific symbols. This is typically done through a mini-game feature, adding extra entertainment value to the game itself.
  • Jackpot Wheel Feature – One of the newer and more unique ways some progressive jackpots allow you to trigger the main prize is by implementing a jackpot wheel. When the reel stops spinning and lands on the main jackpot mark, you win the progressive jackpot.

Best Strategies for Playing Progressive Jackpots

As progressive jackpot slots are still entirely luck-based, much like all other slot games, there aren’t any decisions gameplay-wise that you can make to boost your chances of hitting the main jackpot.

So, these tips are more focused on providing you with the best value for your bankroll and therefore maximizing your chances of landing a jackpot down the line. With that in mind, here are the best tips and tricks for playing progressive jackpots:

Bet Enough To Be Eligible

One of the biggest disadvantages of progressive jackpot slots is that you often have to bet the maximum amount to be eligible for the main jackpot.

Unfortunately, many progressive jackpot players are often unaware of this and often miss out on winning opportunities because of it.

But, now that you know it, always be certain that you’re betting enough so that you have a chance of triggering the main jackpot prize.

The Maximum is Not Always Required

Contrary to popular belief and to what we’ve discussed in the previous tip, not all progressive jackpots require you to bet the maximum amount to be eligible for the main jackpot.

Again, this is why it’s crucial to do your research before playing a specific progressive jackpot game.

Progressive jackpot

You can save a lot of money in the long run if you find a progressive slot that still allows you to be eligible for the main jackpot with a minimum bet.

This can provide you with great value overall, as you can stretch your bankroll maximally and play longer sessions with less money.

Always Have a Loss Limit

This progressive jackpot tip isn’t directly tied to playing the game itself. However, having a bankroll, you’ll always play by is a crucial aspect of being a gambler, not just when playing progressive slots.

When you have a gambling bankroll, you always know how much you have left and can protect yourself from overspending.

In addition to having a bankroll, it’s also advisable to set a loss limit. Gamblers often get carried away and don’t know when to stop playing.

But, when you have a loss limit, you know when to walk away and save your hard-earned money for the next session.

Additional Progressive Jackpot Slot Tips

In addition to the three basic tactics that will help you get the most for your money when playing progressive jackpot slots, we want to highlight some additional tips that have proven to be valuable.

In this light, here are a handful of additional useful progressive jackpot tips:

  • Research the Slot – Before you put your money into a progressive jackpot slot, make sure you know what type of game you’re playing. Read what other players are saying, know the game’s volatility, and understand how the game works inside out.
  • Read the T&Cs – If you’re playing online, finding the wagering and payout terms and conditions is very simple. Nevertheless, researching this information is possible for land-based slots and can be very valuable. Knowing all of the rules and reading the fine print can help you avoid potential problems down the line in case you win the main jackpot.
  • Avoid Any Complex Betting Strategies – As we’ve mentioned above, progressive jackpot slots are all about luck. So, don’t put too much thought and effort into finding the best betting strategy. Keep it simple and just enjoy the game.


Progressive jackpots slots, like any other type of casino game, come with a set of unique advantages and disadvantages.

Considering all of the features of progressive jackpot slots you can find in casinos, hopefully, you can decide whether or not these potentially life-changing games are worth your attention.

To help you out and finish this detailed guide on progressive jackpots, we want to highlight a few key features of progressive slots.

These casino games are the most rewarding type of game you can find in any casino. That said, they also pay out too rarely.

In return, only a small percentage of players ever manages to win a progressive jackpot.

So, if you’re looking for casino games with good value and small betting limits, progressive jackpot slots most likely aren’t for you.

On the other hand, if you have the extra money you don’t mind spending, progressive jackpots can be very fun and exciting.

Lastly, if you decide to play them, keep your expectations low and gamble only for entertainment and for profit.

Progressive Jackpot FAQ

What’s the highest ever progressive jackpot payout?

The biggest progressive jackpot slot any casino player won happened in 2003 and was valued at a bit less than $40 at the time.

This happened in the Excalibur Casino in Las Vegas. The lucky player that won this record-setting jackpot did so playing the super-popular Megabucks slot.

What is the probability of winning a progressive jackpot?

The probability of hitting a progressive jackpot win is around one in 50 million or even more, depending on what progressive slot game you’re playing. For reference, the probability of picking the winning 6 out of 49 lottery numbers is just under 1 in 14 million.

Do progressive jackpots pay out prizes at once?

Whether or not you’ll receive a lump-sum payment from your progressive jackpot win depends on the software provider and the casino itself.

However, very few progressive jackpot games pay out lump-sum payments. Most often, you’ll receive your progressive jackpot prize in monthly or yearly payments.

Who pays out the progressive jackpot winnings?

Most often, casinos only pay out for lower-valued prizes and smaller jackpots. When it comes to the massive multi-million jackpots, the software provider that made the game is actually the one that handles this process.

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