Usually found on slots games, every time a wager is placed on a progressive jackpot, a small portion of the bet is put aside into a 'pot' which grows until a specific combination of symbols triggers the prize payout.
The history of progressive jackpots
Progressive slot machines have only been around since the technology has been available to link machines together. Individual machines that featured a prize pot had been around for a while, but they could never accumulate enough players to really pay out significant sums, but by the mid-1980's it had become possible to connect machines from different locations.
International Gaming Technology (IGT), were the first to introduce a linked progressive jackpot in 1986, and by the time online casinos began to appear in the late 1990's, the concept was well established, and progressive titles were featured almost from the start.
What is progressive jackpot?
With a small portion of every bet, across so many casinos, the value of the prize pot can grow very quickly, with the current amount usually prominently displayed on the games' screen. Each casino that features a game will contribute towards the jackpot, which is retained by the game developer until paid out to a winner.
The value of the prize is the same across all of those casinos, so it doesn't matter if the player is at a small site or one of the major operators, the jackpot win will be the same amount.
There are many variations on how to win progressive jackpots but with most games, special Jackpot symbols will line up across a payline, or a bonus round
will be triggered during which the player must complete a certain combination to claim the win. As soon as the jackpot is won, it is reset to a minimum level, which can still be $100,000's, and begins to grow again from there.
To qualify for the progressive jackpot, players will normally have to place a 'maximum bet' on all paylines although this also makes the jackpot amount rise even quicker. In Blackjack, and some other progressive games, players need to make a side bet to qualify for the win, while Video Poker will typically pay out on a Royal Flush combination.
The best progressive jackpot games
The biggest progressive jackpot ever paid out, some $39.7 million, wasat the Excalibur in Las Vegas, on the Megabucks game.
Other notable progressives that can be found at actual casinos include Money Madness, which pays around $2million and Wheel of Fortune, where the top prize is often at the $1.5million mark. In Monaco and Monte Carlo, there are lots progressive jackpot games, including the huge Star Wars slots. Other big-name titles like Harley Davidson, Elvira and Cash Fever can be found at the various casinos dotted around the principality. Notable Monaco progressive jackpots can be played at the Cafe de Paris, Sun Casino and the famous Casino de Monte Carlo. However it's online where these games have become hugely popular.
The selection of progressive jackpots online is staggering, but certain ones deserve particular attention, either for the sheer size of their main prizes, their popularity, or both.
The biggest online progressive prize ever won was €17.8 million paid out to a Norwegian player on the Mega Fortune slot, from the Net Ent company.
This game also holds the record for the second biggest prize, and has deservedly become a major attraction at the many online casinos where it is featured.
Mega Moolah, from the Microgaming developer, is another big success and has been released in several different versions to keep players coming back for more. This game frequently pays out multi-million Dollar prizes, including $3.7million in June 2014. Other big Microgaming progressive jackpots include Major Millions and The Dark Knight Rises. Novomatic have Golden Sevens, the Ancient Giants and Joker Jackpot titles in their range, and the biggest Playtech progressive jackpots include Beach Life, the Marvel collection, Monty Pythons Holy Grail and Gladiator Jackpot. Golden Sevens, available at StarGames Casino, has risen above the $5million mark, while Beach Life range will often pay out in excess of $3million.
Progressive jackpot software providers
Some of the biggest online casinos use their own, bespoke software, but as they have so many players, they can afford to run their own progressive games without the need to link up across many different sites. At 888 Casino, there are 12 progressive games including Millionaire Genie, with a $2million jackpot and Ultimate Grill Thrills, with a top prize of around $1million. Party Casino features Loot'EnKhamun, and Melon Madness, both with a $3million+ jackpot.
Progressive jackpot strategies
You could also check out the expected Return To Player amount when choosing a game. This is the percentage of every £/$/€ that a player can expect to get back, and is typically 95 - 97%, but can vary a little from this. The higher the 'RTP', the longer you can play a game with a set bankroll, and to check the RTP for a game, you usually just have to view the paytable that each slot or game will feature.
It's also worth considering the bonuses and promotions offered by the casino, as a welcome bonus can be used to play the game effectively for free, and a cashback deal of just a few percent can make a big difference to how many spins you can have within your budget.