Progressive Jackpots Explained: How the progressive jackpots at the online casinos work

The progressive jackpots are not an invention of the online casinos, but those gambling websites have taken the idea to a whole new level, all benefiting the players greatly. But in order to understand your chances of becoming instantly rich when playing the progressive slots, it helps to know how the progressive jackpots work. In this guide we will explain the most important points of those highly-coveted casino prizes, hopefully improving your chances to win one of them. We will also explain the various intricacies of the different progressive games.

Progressive Jackpot Explained

Whether we are talking about a progressive jackpot at an online casino or the local gambling hall, the basic working of this prize are fairly simple. In this article we will focus on the online casinos, but it is safe to say that similar rules apply to the progressive jackpot slots and games at the land-based casinos.

How the Progressive Jackpot Works

The simplicity of the progressive jackpot is it’s strongest side. Ever wondered how the progressive jackpot accumulates every time you spin the reels of a video slot machine? Well, the progressive jackpot works as follows: every time a customer places a wager (i.e. spins the reel of the slot machine), a predetermined portion of that bet is “transferred” into the jackpot pot; simple as that. This is why the progressive jackpot prize only increases when a wager is made.

With slots which offer the choice of a bet, the higher the wager, the more money is added to the progressive pot. For example, if you bet $1 per spin, maybe only $0.07 go into the jackpot (the prize indicator will increase by that amount), while if you wager $5 per spin, the jackpot may climb by $0.50; there are some exceptions, which we’ll cover a little further down this guide. The jackpot continues to accumulate until it is won by the winning combination required. As you can see, the workings of the progressive jackpot are very simple. The details, however, may differ by quite a lot, depending not only on the casino, but on the game itself.

Types of Progressive Jackpots

In general, there are three ways we can differentiate between progressive jackpots:

  • Must-Hit-By (Must Win By)
  • Open Ended
  • Random

Which of the three you’d play is entirely up to you, all offering certain self-excluding benefits and drawbacks.

Must-Hit-By Progressive Jackpots

The “must hit by” progressive is simple, the jackpot starts at a set dollar amount and rises with the players’ contributions. It could be won at any time, but it must hit by a known, predetermined amount, which is always displayed by the casino. The closer the jackpots gets to that amount – the higher the chance of winning it. Even if no one is lucky enough to win this type of jackpot by the time it reaches that “hit-by” number, it is guaranteed that the player, whose contribution was the one getting the jackpot to reach the must-win-by limit, instantly wins the jackpot. It doesn’t matter what the outcome of the final spin was (i.e. the player doesn’t have to hit the winning combination), that player is automatically the winner. Of course, most games would automatically set up the winning combination on that final spin, but that’s not a hard-set rule.

The drawback of this type of progressive jackpot is that, generally speaking, these are the smaller amount jackpots, and they also have smaller contributions towards the jackpot prize pool, taking longer to get closer to the must-win-by level. The benefit, on the other side, is quite obvious – you know you have better chance to win it as you get closer to that amount. Keep in mind that, just because the jackpot amount may not be nowhere close to the “hit-by” level, it doesn’t mean that the jackpot won’t be won. These jackpots rarely get to the actual must-win-by amount; as the jackpot gets closer, more people start playing, increasing the chance of someone actually winning it by getting the winning combination.

Open-Ended Progressive Jackpots

Contrary to the previous type, the open jackpot is exactly as the name suggests – open-ended. The progressive prize amount will start at a certain number and will climb, based on player activity and contribution, until someone gets lucky enough to hit the winning combination. How long this would take is random, unlike the must-hit-by, where we know that the jackpot must be paid at or before reaching a certain amount.

The benefit here is that these are the type of jackpot wins you read about, those making people millionaires overnight. The open-ended progressive is the largest, as it allows for theoretically endless accumulation. Of course, the laws of mathematics and probabilities doesn’t let this jackpot spend much time without a winner, but it is the one type everyone wants to win. The drawback is that it doesn’t hit as often as the smaller ones, and that there are more players going after it, reducing one’s chances.

Random Progressive Jackpot

The final type is a sort of a hybrid progressive jackpot, although a lot of video slots offer this type. It behaves as a progressive jackpot, whereas people pay a tiny contribution towards it with every wager, but at the same time it is not dependent on a winning combination, unlike any of the traditional progressive jackpots. It grows with every wager, but it could hit at completely random time, regardless of the actual outcome of the spin. These random progressive jackpots tend to be much smaller and are won quite often, giving the player an extra layer of fun and money prizes. One example of a slot machine offering this type of progressive is the Hairway To Heaven, where there is a minor random progressive jackpot (a few hundred dollars) and a major one (a few thousand dollar). Both of them are won frequently, but when they would actually hit – it’s anyone’s guess.

Different Casinos, Same Progressive Jackpot?

A lot of people choose to have accounts with more than one online casino. There are many good reasons to do so, for example, taking advantage of different bonus offers, etc. And many people are surprised to see the exact same progressive slot machine, with the exact same jackpot amount. What gives?!? Are these casinos cheating, is it the same casino under a different name, what is the deal? Rest assured, the explanation is much less malevolent than that.

The reason you may see the exact same progressive jackpot game across multiple online casinos is that most of the progressive jackpots are not offered by the casino itself, but by the software provider. The software development company is the one offering that particular progressive jackpot game (whether a video slot machine, blackjack game or a specialty game). This specific type of progressive jackpot is then networked among all other casinos that have contract with the software provider. All customers, at every online casino using that software who play the progressive game, then participate in the pool of potential winners, and part of their wager pools into one big jackpot. This is also one of the reasons why some progressive slots may show increase of their prize without even  single customer playing the game at that casino – others across the network are. And it’s also why some casino games, particularly slots, have such high jackpot prizes (some crossing over into the million mark). It also takes us to the next point:

Will the Online Casino Pay the Progressive Jackpot?

While the reputable online casinos are profitable, both in short term, but especially in the long term, they still operate on pretty thin margins. If they didn’t – people would simply stop playing there, who wants to play at a casino where they don’t win any money?!? As such, most of the online casinos (especially the smaller ones) would have a very hard time paying out progressive jackpots which often cross the $1 million prizes. And the smaller the progressive jackpot – the more often it is won, which provides no relief for those casinos, that don’t offer games with such huge prizes. While the million-dollar progressives may be won twice a year, the casino games with progressive jackpots in the tens of thousands could be won twice a week, sometimes even more often.

And one shouldn’t forget that, if a video slot has a progressive, besides the jackpot, the slot machine still obeys the payout rules and gives out other prizes, based on its payout table. In other words, you may wager $1 at the slot, not win the jackpot, but hit a $5 winning combination nevertheless. So how do the online casinos make financial sense of all this?

One solution would be to simply set aside the progressive jackpot money that accumulate in anticipation of the winner, then pay that money to the lucky player. But could a company be really trusted to operate in such way? What if the casino land on some hard times with a lot of winners at the same time, and feels it needs to “dip into” the progressive jackpot fund to meet obligations, yet be unlucky enough to get a winner of the progressive right at that time? If online casinos began defaulting on their progressive jackpots, this type of games would disappear overnight, as players’ trust erodes rapidly.

How do the casinos prevent this from ever occurring? The solution they came up is rather simple, yet very effective – the online casinos don’t offer the progressive jackpot, the software developer does. When the casino software company develops a particular casino game with a progressive jackpot, the contributions from all the players at all casinos go to the developer itself. It then pays the prize, once a player hits that lucky combination, removing the online casino, where the player won the jackpot, completely out of the jackpot equation. This not only ensures that the player will be paid the prize, trust would be maintained (you win, you get the jackpot), and places no additional financial burden on the casino itself. As weird as it may sound on first glance, the online casinos are actually happy when a customer of theirs wins a large progressive jackpot. They lose no money from this, yet they get all the promotional benefits that come with such a big prize.

Do People Really Win the Progressive Jackpots?

Absolutely. This is another frequently asked question associated with the progressive casino games. As you’ve already read, not only do people win the progressive jackpots all the time, the online casinos are ecstatic when this happens. They get to brag in advertisements about the winner being lucky at their casino, it steers more customers, drives a lot of good press their way, all while not having to spend a penny to get it. Trust us when we tell you that casino management is more than happy, when their customers win progressive jackpots, and wouldn’t even think about preventing this in any way (not that they could, even if they wanted to).

More Progressive Jackpot Information

We will conclude this extensive “progressive jackpot explained” guide with a bit more information on the subject. Earlier in the article we mentioned how the progressive jackpot prize amount accumulates depending on the size of the bet; while this is generally the case, it’s not the only way. There are two different ways the progressive jackpot may behave depending on the size of the wager. Our earlier explanation covers the more common one, i.e. when the bet size increases, the contribution to the progressive jackpot also increases, proportionately or otherwise. But there is an exception – the tiered jackpot. When this form is utilized by the casino game, when the player changes the denomination of the wager, it doesn’t just change the contribution, but the jackpot itself. More common at the land-based casinos, in this case an entirely different jackpot amount is the top prize, rather than simply higher contribution to the jackpot pool.

Another very important point to mind, when playing the progressive casino games, is the bet required. For example, just because a video slot is offering progressive jackpot, it doesn’t mean that you can win it at any wager level. Most video slots will require you to place the maximum bet, in order to have the chance to win the jackpot. If you don’t, the combination that would usually win the progressive jackpot, would now simply offer a set top prize. A lot of people, unfortunately, have felt the excitement of getting that winning combination only to immediately feel the disappointment of realizing that the bet they placed did not qualify them for the jackpot. We cannot underline strongly enough how important it is to make sure that, if you are going for the progressive, you wager the proper amount to qualify for the progressive.

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