Slot Tutorials

Slot Vocabulary: Wide-Area Progressives

Written by Joshua

Progressives on slot machines take all sorts of different forms. So do the numbers they pay out. Depending on how a progressive is formed and built, it can range from small numbers to astronomical ones. A Wide-Area Progressive, because of the way it’s designed, has the ability to be the largest.

In a previous article discussing how progressives grow, I mentioned the various types of progressives that exist. Let’s start with a review:

  • Stand-alone progressives: These progressives are built and seeded from the play of a single slot machine. By the nature of how much play a single slot machine can get, these can get into the thousands (presuming a few dollars per spin on average), but rarely get much higher than that unless they’re high-limit.
  • Linked progressives: These are commonly machines in one more banks within the walls of a casino. Because machines are linked together, they have the ability to go higher; many of the Link-style games start at a $10,000 top progressive jackpot and build from there.
  • Wide-Area Progressive: These are games that are linked across multiple casinos, either within a state, or in some cases, like Megabucks, throughout the country. These have the ability to get into six- or seven-figure territory.

Unlike the local progressives, these are managed by the major slot manufacturers. They’re generally licensed, which means profit sharing is done between the slot manufacturer and the casino. On games like Megabucks, this also means a lower payout percentage overall.

But what it opens up is the opportunity for a life-changing jackpot. Many popular themes, such as Wheel of Fortune and Monopoly, have had such jackpots attached to them.

Because this is a system managed by the slot manufacturers, it works in some ways like the big multi-state lottery pools like Powerball and Mega Millions. The top prize is handled by the slot manufacturer, and usually paid in installments when won.

The various casino operators participating pool their sales together and get a share of the profits from the game. In this way the casino is not on the hook for paying out the top prize, but has the ability to offer such potential within their walls. Meanwhile, the slot manufacturer, able to seed the jackpot thanks to the expected odds and sales from a variety of casinos, can run the game profitably.

When a prize of that size is won, there are sometimes stories of people waiting around for awhile as the machine is checked and verified to ensure no malfunctions occurred and the game did as it said it did – this is important to ensure no tampering or such happened. But after that most players get their first installment quite quickly.

So what are the odds of winning the top prize of a wide area progressive? Megabucks, which is the biggest prize regularly available, has estimated odds of nearly 1 in 50 million. The game’s average payback is low for a high-denomination game, and it’s calculated that about 10% of the coin-in fuels the top prize, so unless you’re the lucky one, you’re facing an uphill battle from the get go. But players love the chances of being that one.

For most wide-area progressives you must bet max bet, which can get up there for the bigger prizes, so if you’re trying to strike it rich, be sure to understand the rules of a given game to ensure you’re wagering what is required to win the top prize.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.


  • Joshua, I was wondering if you had a list of manufactures and if possible a (maybe not exhaustive list) of wide-area progressive slot machines, linked progressive and stand-alone progressive slot machines. Or a way to tell which are which.

    • Hi John! I don’t have a list – things tend to evolve quickly. But the differences tend to be pretty clean: A stand-alone progressive is its own progressives and not shared. So if you look to other machines like it, you won’t find the same progressive values. A linked progressive you’ll see the same progressive amount or amounts on a set of machines. And a wide area progressive tends to have much, much higher jackpots (most often six or seven figures, or Megabucks, which starts at $10 million) and will be shared across multiple casinos. One recent example is the Super Grand on Dollar Storm; it will be shared across multiple casinos, and can help explain why those progressives grow so fast.

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