How Do Progressive Slots Work? An Essential Guide

Progressive slots offer a special jackpot that keeps rising every time someone spins the reels. These special machines can be found in various online casinos and land-based gambling establishments and are insanely popular with gamblers due to their huge payouts. 

How do progressive slots work and can you do anything to boost your chances of winning the jackpot?

Find out as we dive into the world of million-dollar progressive jackpots. 

How Do Progressive Slots Work?

As mentioned above, a progressive jackpot is a casino game with a growing prize pool. 

The developers of casino games serve their progressive slots to a huge network of online casinos across the world, including third-party partners and white-label platforms. 

Each time a gambler makes a wager and spins the reels on any one of the machines on the global network, a small percentage of the bet is added to the jackpot. The sum is also known as the metre and is typically taken from several slots at the same time. So, if 50 people are playing an online slot, like Mega Moolah or Age of Gods at the same time, they are all contributing to and competing for the same jackpot. 

As a result, the jackpot can go as high as $20 million or more, depending on how many people play that particular slot, i.e. the more popular the game is, the bigger the jackpot will get. 

A progressive jackpot grows over time as well, which means it will increase gradually until a lucky winner claims it. 

Once the jackpot is won, it will reset or ‘seed’ to a preset value. From here, it will start building back up when new players make wagers, starting the process again.

How do you win the progressive jackpot in a casino?

Slots are one of the easiest casino games to play. All you need to do is make a deposit, spin the reels and hope for the best. Progressive slots are a different story, though, as most of them don’t just let you win a massive payout just like that. 

Actually, most of the popular slots require that you trigger a special bonus game first and then spin the wheel, match symbols or pick cards to determine which jackpot you are playing for. Most progressive slots normally come with 4 tiers, usually starting from mini and minor jackpots (where the seed is $10 or $100) to major and mega jackpots (that reset to $10,000 or $1m, respectively).

Other games might require you to line up certain slot symbols on a designated payline or fill all lines with special symbols. In both cases, there is no guarantee that you will win the biggest jackpot or pay for the highest prize, but that’s all part of the fun. 

That said, there are some slots that pay out at random without the need to trigger special symbols or bonus levels—these, however, typically come with higher wagering requirements. 

Random Number Generator

Slot machines, like other casino games, are governed by a random number generator (RNG), which ensures fair play. Random really means random, so don’t think that just because a jackpot was triggered recently, the game won’t pay out again in the near future, or vice versa.  

Must-Drop Jackpots

These games are programmed so that the jackpot drops by a given deadline, such as a certain time of day or when the progressive jackpot reaches a given amount. 

Timed jackpots attract a lot of punters especially as the deadline approaches, which is not always a bad thing—in fact, one of the best times to hit online slots is when other users are playing.  

Types of Progressive Slots

There are three main types of progressive slots, categorized according to the way they are linked with other machines. 

Standalone jackpots

As the name suggests, these slots are not connected to any other games so they are funded by and paid out to players on a single machine. The progressive jackpots offered are therefore smaller, although the chances of winning are bigger as there are fewer gamblers to compete with.

Stakes are usually lower on these machines as well, making them a great choice for casual players who are in it for fun, rather than getting a huge payout.   

Local Jackpots

Also known as in-house jackpots, these are linked across several machines in one land-based casino or grouped together between multiple games in an online casino. 

Unlike standalone progressive slots, here the payout is bigger (around $10,000 or more) since there are more machines contributing to the jackpot. 

Network Progressive Slots

As the name implies, wide-area progressive slots are connected across multiple casinos, and sometimes even across different brands. This means that the prize pool is very high, normally ranging above $500,000 and going into millions. 

The chances of hitting a progressive jackpot on one of these slots are very low, but if you do, you will probably be set for life.

How big can progressive jackpots get?

One of the biggest appeals of progressive jackpots is the prize pool—a jackpot that has not been claimed in a while that can provide payouts comparable to a lottery win

So which games offer the biggest payouts?

Microgaming’s Mega Moolah is one of the most generous progressive slots out there. Actually, this game accounts for 4 of the 5 biggest progressive slot wins of all time, including the €18.92 million won in September 2018 (the biggest payout so far) and the world record for the largest jackpot payout in an online slot machine game (€17.87 million) won by Jon Heywood in 2015. 

Netent’s Mega Fortune and Divine Fortune as well as Mega Jackpots by IGT rank pretty high as well.


How to Play Progressive Slots: Some Tips & Tricks 

The outcome of slots, like all casino games, is random and determined purely by luck. 

However, there are some slot-winning strategies and a few specific tips on progressive jackpots that might help you hit the million-dollar jackpot.

1. Go for games with low volatility

The rewards are smaller, but the win record is higher. On the other hand, if you are playing for a big win, try games with high volatility. On the same note, go for games with a higher return-to-player rate (any slot with an RTP over 94% is more likely to offer bigger payouts).  

2. Give the demo a try

The top-rated online casinos have demo versions of their popular titles, giving you free practice. If you are a newbie, this could help you get familiar with the various features of the game so you will know exactly how it works once you start playing for real money. 

3. Place the maximum bet (if you can)

Some progressive slots depend on the amount of money you wager, meaning that if you bet a higher deposit, your chances of hitting the jackpot go up. Other games require that players bet the maximum amount in order to play for the jackpot (usually shown on the information page of the game). 

If the maximum bet is too rich for your bankroll, you might be better off with a non-progressive jackpot. 

4. Set a budget and stick to it

This is the best progressive slots strategy you can employ to ensure you come out on top. Slots, and especially progressive ones, can be addictive, so if you see that you are spending more than your preset budget or loss limit, stop the game. Also, make sure that you only play games that fit your bankroll—choose a game that gives you more spins for your money. 

5. Use all the bonuses and promotions available

Casinos are known to entice punters with generous bonuses in the form of free spins, giving you more chances to play and thus increasing your odds of winning. Gambling institutions usually save their best promos for the holidays, so be sure to check out the best Christmas casino bonuses available this festive season. 

Bottom Line: Are Progressive Slots Worth It?

Progressive slots can pay out life-changing amounts of money, but the chances of hitting the million-dollar prize are slim at best. However, if you play with a certain degree of restraint and stick to a predetermined budget, progressive slots can be a lot of fun and a great way to pass the time. On the other hand, if you obsess over the game and start spending more than you can afford to lose, it might be time to call it quits. Remember that gambling can quickly turn into a serious addiction, so get professional help if you feel that you are losing control.


Is it better to play progressive slots?

This depends entirely on how much you are willing to spend. Progressive jackpots usually come with higher wagering requirements (or require that you put up the maximum deposit in order to play). If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you might want to consider non-progressive slots that come with a fixed jackpot. It may not be $20 million, but you can still win big. 

What triggers a progressive jackpot?

Depending on the game, a jackpot can be triggered by a bonus spin, a deadline, or the matching of certain symbols in a given payline. Make sure you check what triggers a jackpot on the game you are about to play or try a demo version before to get familiar with the features. 

What are the odds of hitting a progressive slot machine?

Quite low, but they vary from machine to machine. For instance, the odds of winning Microgaming’s Mega Moolah are 50 million to one, while some Vegas casinos even offer a 1 in a 300 million chance. It’s important to remember that the size of the jackpot has no impact on your odds—the chances of winning a major jackpot are the same as winning a mini one. 

Do you need to play the maximum bet to qualify for a progressive jackpot?

Not always, although most games would require that a player bet the maximum amount to be able to take a shot at the jackpot. This is done to even out the playing field and give low-stakes players the same chances as high-rollers. However, you might be able to find games that do not require the max deposit, i.e. the jackpot may be triggered by a bonus round. Be sure to check the rules before you start playing.

How do progressive slots work in land-based casinos?

Progressive slots in online and land-based casinos work in the same way.  In-house jackpots are typically linked across four of five machines owned by the same operator and located across the casino floor, while wide-network jackpots are connected across several casinos. 


Toni always had an appetite for learning new things and random facts about almost everything, which is why when he got offered the job to work as a content writer he took it without hesitation. Writing daily took his love for words and research to a whole new level, and made him realize that this is a career he would love to pursue. Although he spends most of his time researching his next piece, you can also find him on the football court, in the gym, or at home with a book in his hand.

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