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Mega This and Mega That

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: My question concerns the large progressive slots, like the Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks. They are in most casinos - large and small - in many states. Is each machine mechanism programmed to the same payout amount, or “looseness,” or would a slot machine in a small, local casino, be more likely to pay off? Also, are ALL the machines, nationwide, tied in together, or is it state by state? V.W.

Both Megabucks and the Wheel of Fortune are a statewide network of progressive slot carousels that are combined together to produce those humongous jackpots. Circuitry in each machine monitors every coin played and transmits that information electronically to a mainframe computer at IGT’s headquarters. This primary computer tracks every Megabucks or Wheel of Fortune slot machine and maintains a constant running total of the jackpot. Then the computer projects the always-changing jackpot totals to all units where it is displayed on the digital tote board on each bank of machines. When the main jackpot is hit, a signal is sent to the other machines on the system to reset their progressive meters.

As with any slot machines tied in together to create those progressive jackpots, each machine within that network plays independently. Simply put, Vic, you are playing an individual slot machine, linked to a statewide network of progressive slot carousels that achieves those prodigious payouts. Each slot’s payback percentage, albeit extremely low because of its ginormous progression, is equal to the payback percentages on all the other machines linked to it.

To grow any progressive, a percentage of each bet made funds the winning jackpot. The degree at which the meters progress upwards is based on a pre-set percentage of all the funds cycled through the machine. It is a percentage of your loses cycled through the slot machine that provides a once in a lifetime jumbo jackpot for someone else.

Those mammoth progressive jackpots on machines like Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune are paid by the manufacturer of the slot, in your example, IGT. If ever someone’s stars do truly align, IGT (the games vendor) would send a representative to corroborate the win, and then pay off the winner.

The chances of hitting a life-altering Megabucks machine are approximately one in 50,000,000. To be exact, for those interested in such things, with each reel on a Megabucks machine having 368 virtual stops, and only one virtual stop assigned to the jackpot symbol, by multiplying 368 X 368 X 368, your calculator would determine the chances of hitting the Megabucks at exactly 1 in 49,836,032. Either way, your opportunity of hitting pay dirt are slightly better than zero. Still, as they say, you can only profit if you play, right? Plus, putting the top prize number aside, a Megabucks slot machine offers an 80 percent long-term payback of the funds wagered by its players.

All state gaming regulations require networked progressive slot machines like Megabucks that are linked together to have the same payback percentages, but, this does NOT cross state lines. Each state has a separate progressive total, with Joe in Michigan chasing one life-altering jackpot, and Josephine in Nevada running down another.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
“After getting bounced from Harrah's, I'm so concerned about getting kicked out that my game has become more conservative than Rush Limbaugh.” —Barry Meadow, Blackjack Autumn