Progressive Slots History

Progressive Slots History

Progressive games are probably the most exhilarating addition to the gaming industry in the past few decades. Based on the traditional slot games that were invented in the late 1800s, progressive slots and other progressive games add a thrill that was unbeknownst to the average player. Progressive machines are basically a group of slot machines linked together by a network. The big jackpot win is the obvious attraction to play progressive slots and this jackpot is made up from a percentage of the money played into the machine. Any lucky player who hits the winning symbols on any machine in the network walks home with the jackpot prize.

There are two types of progressive slot machine networks – area wide networks and proprietary networks. Area network progressives are a group of machines joined together throughout a specific geographical area (state, area of the country etc.) Proprietary network machines are generally installed by a casino in order to increase their own profit making ability. These machines are placed in carousals and are linked together throughout a gambling establishment. Area network progressives offer higher jackpots than the proprietary network progressives, but the latter have a more frequent hit rate.

Slot machines have always been immensely popular amongst the gambling masses because of the fact that not much skill is needed. The game is played solo and not much thought needs to go into depositing coins into the slot. Progressive slot machines have made this form of gambling even more popular because, despite the fact that most people know that the chances of winning the jackpot are very slim, the ‘just maybe this time’ element is what keeps many players coming back.

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Inventor of Slot Machines

Charles Fey has been awarded the title of Father of Slot Machines because he developed the prototype of the modern slot machine still used today. In 1887 Fey created the first machine in his own workshop, named the Liberty Bell which included 3 reels and 20 symbols which were activated by pulling a lever at the side of the machine. The machine also featured symbols on their reels and a combination of specific symbols awarded the player with a prize.

Fey was swamped with orders for the slot machine as the popularity of the game spread and eventually in 1907 he teamed up with Mills Novelty Company and they began producing a whole series of machines. Over the years mechanical and cosmetic changes were made to the machines including changing the casing from cast iron to wood, and also adding decorative and colorful covers to the slot machines. In the 1930s the machines were also provided with unique names such as Lion Head and Castle Front which matched their decoration.

Popularization of Slot Machines in the Casino

Slot machines became the epitome of casino gambling in the 1940s when Bugsy Siegel began placing them in his Las Vegas Flamingo Casino. Soon thereafter, all other established casinos followed suite. The 1950s heralded the introduction of electro-mechanical machines and companies produced slot machines such as Big Bertha and Super Big Bertha. These larger machines offered increased payouts due to their electro-mechanic components which allowed for bigger denominations of coins being deposited.

Bally Manufacturing spearheaded the development of slots in the 1960's and 1970's, introducing machines such as Money Honey and Dollar Slot Machine. As casinos began realizing that slot machines were bringing in the big money to their establishments, they started arranging their floor set up to ensure that slot machines were strategically and centrally placed. Those machines that had a higher payout rate and could be heard throwing out the coins to an excited winner were placed in prime view of passing trade.

The Birth of Progressive Slots

In March 1986, International Game Technology (IGT) launched the first ever progressive slot machines. The difference between these machines and their predecessors was that progressive slots did not offer a fixed jackpot amount but rather allowed the jackpot amount to grow as more and more players played the machines.

The first progressive slot machine game was Megabucks. The machines were hooked together locally (in the United States) over phone lines via modem technology. IGT guaranteed that they would fund the first million dollars to set the jackpot prize in motion, but from then on, the growth of the prize depended on how many people played the machines. Players dreaming of becoming instant millionaires flocked to deposit coins into these machines. Less than a year after the progressives were launched, the first jackpot of $4,988,842.17 was won in Reno on February 1, 1987.

Primary and Secondary Jackpots

Progressive slot machines have two types of jackpots: primary and secondary. The primary jackpot is the highest jackpot that can be can be won if a specific winning combination is hit. This combination will generally be displayed in a large screen above the machine. Secondary jackpots are of a lower value than the primary jackpot and they are displayed in smaller screens below. While they may be lower in value, the chance of hitting this combination is higher.

How Progressives Work

The jackpot in progressive slots and games increases as more and more people play. 10% of every dollar wagered is generally added to the jackpot. When the jackpot is hit, then the value drops to its original starting figure. In order to stand a chance of hitting the jackpot, the maximum number of requested coins should be played every time. In almost every machine there is no point in playing below the maximum if a player wishes to try for the jackpot.

Everyone knows that the chance of actually winning the jackpot is astronomically small, but the thrill and ‘what if’ keeps players coming back for more. One slot expert assessed that the chance of winning the Megabucks jackpot is 49,836,032 to one! Players should determine how much of their actual bankroll they are willing to risk on such machines. The odds of winning the jackpot are proportional to the size of the jackpot.

Other Progressive Games

Slot machines are not the only type of progressive games available at a casino. Video poker is another form of progressive play that includes a jackpot that grows every time more money is played. Other games offered in the progressive form are Caribbean poker stud, Poker Ride, Triple Sevens Blackjack, SupaJax.

Why Progressive Became So Popular

Until the launch of progressive slots and games, the state lottery was the main way that millionaire-wannabes fulfilled their desires. When IGT flooded the market with progressive slots, the attraction was insurmountable – progressive slots were the hottest thing on the casino floor and everyone wanted to have a go at becoming an instant millionaire.

While most people knew only a very small chance existed that they would win the jackpot, the thrill and anticipation is what kept them coming back for more.


Shortly after the launch of the first progressive slot machine, the online casino industry was born. It was a natural move for progressive slot machines to be included in the choice of games offered at online casinos. Today there is a massive network of online slot machines and progressive slots that are linked up all over the internet. These progressive games are often the highlight of any player’s visit to the casino with the hope that they will become the next multi-millionaire.

Hundreds of players have won superb jackpots over the years through online progressive games. While not every jackpot pays out the dreamt-after mega millions, winning a few hundred thousand dollars also makes people quite happy!

Posted by CCJ Team

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