What is a Progressive Jackpot, Exactly?

Every slot fan likes to focus on the big wins.

Sure, a 20-30% gain is great (really, that’s a great day’s profit!), but most players remain fixated on those most elusive, most exhilarating prospects…

… that’s right, we’re talking about jackpots, baby!

And those gigantic wins you read about?

All of them are progressive ones!

This word gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? Let’s zoom in to find out.

What makes a jackpot progressive?

Bucking the trend of the times, this is not a political term.

A progressive jackpot just means the jackpot increases with each spin (or wager).

Progressive jackpots come in all shapes and sizes, and in fact are not new in slot play. Two kinds of progressive jackpots are as old as the hills. These are:

  • Stand alone progressive jackpots are fed by bets into a single game or console.
  • In-house progressive jackpots are fed by linked machines in a particular gaming establishment. These are most often found in brick-and-mortar casinos.

But in recent years, a new kind of progressive jackpot has swept the industry…

… sharing the same progressive jackpot across several titles simultaneously. also known as Networked Progressive Jackpots. This has yielded a massive increase in the size of the biggest wins available, and with it, the dreams punters have for their brightest futures.

Our excellent sister site Real Money Action explores this phenomenon in depth.

The networked jackpot trend is so successful that it has transcended slot play itself! Video Poker, video blackjack, and a great variety of other online gambling platforms now offer max payouts that receive contributions from countless consoles.

Are progressive jackpots always better?

As is clear enough, more players contributing towards a jackpot means bigger top payouts. But is this really better for punters?

Well, for the lucky winner of course, the answer is a resounding yes!

But what about all the other punters out there?

There’s no question that bigger payouts will draw in more clients, as well as make bigger news… both reasons we expect to see these trends continue in the future. But there’s another side to that equation. Say there are 1,000 players paying into a single jackpot…

… of course, there will be only one winner, and he or she will win very big indeed!

Now imagine that the same 1,000 gamblers are paying into 100 jackpots, which will be won separately.

… of course, the payouts will be significantly smaller than when there was only jackpot. But instead of one massive winner, there will be 100 smaller ones.

Which is another way to say that an individual punter’s chances of winning are 100 times better. Would you prefer a 1/1000 chance at a big payout, or a 1/100 chance at a small one?

Almost any player would instinctively choose the larger jackpot payout over the smaller one, but from a mathematical perspective, there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s simply a matter of preference.

That’s right! Interestingly enough, the return-on-investment for both situations is the same!

That’s because the issue is one of variance, not of profit margins.

What does this mean for players?

The short answer? It depends.

Some online slot fans specifically target titles that offer the largest jackpots available.

This style has more than a little in common with lottery players – taking the long odds with the hope that, when that big payday arrives, it will be one for the books.

One piece of advice for punters who take this tactic to heart: make absolutely certain you’re eligible for the jackpot payout!

This means everything from checking that the cashier withdrawal system works properly on the chosen casino site to triple-checking that payout is licensed and above board in your home region.

After all, things can get weird when payouts get big! There are major tax considerations, lawyers may get involved…

… and any details that may have gotten overlooked – which might not be a big deal when cashing out a few hundred dollars – have the potential to become heart-breaking issues when the sums involved are in the millions instead!

With that said, for the players who prefer not to put all their eggs in the jackpot basket, remember that this is a completely acceptable gaming choice.

It’s akin to choosing lower-variance in slot games where volatility is adjustable. After all, bigger jackpots don’t always mean better odds for players!

They just mean that the lucky winner brings home a very large payday indeed. Gamers who prefer more frequent, smaller wins can also enjoy progressive jackpots… just not the ultra-big, networked ones.


Q: What are the three kinds of progressive jackpots?

A: In order of jackpot size, they are stand alone, in-house, and networked.

Q: Are bigger jackpot sizes always better for players?

A: No! It’s a big counterintuitive, but the percentages players get are often the same for ultra-large jackpots as they are for smaller ones… the reason being that smaller jackpots are much more likely to be awarded.

Samuel Read profile image Samuel Read LCB Reviewer - last updated 2020-11-24
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