Progressive Jackpot Slot Machines – How Do They Work?


Incredibly lucrative payouts in games have made headlines many times. It is not uncommon to win sums in excess of AUD$17 million! This makes progressive jackpots in online casinos the main contenders for the biggest winnings. So it’s no surprise that these games are among the most popular among players.

Nevertheless, understanding the intricacies of a particular slot machine can sometimes be confusing. This guide aims to simplify and explain how progressive jackpot slot machines work in an easy-to-understand way. You’ll also learn about the biggest wins in history and important strategies to increase your chances of winning when playing progressive jackpot slots.

Progressive Jackpots
Progressive Jackpot Slot Machines – How Do They Work?

How does it work?

The progressive jackpot mechanism is straightforward: the greater the number of participants, the larger the ultimate prize becomes. Every time a player starts a slot and places a bet, a portion of the bet is funneled into a dedicated prize pool within the casino. The accumulated deductions contribute to the increasing jackpot amount. This concept was initially introduced by the provider International Gaming Technologies in 1986, gaining rapid popularity among gamblers and subsequently finding its way into numerous slot machines.

The fundamental principle of a progressive jackpot is clear-cut. As implied by the name, it’s all about winning a substantial prize. However, this prize isn’t fixed—it fluctuates with every deposit a player makes. When a player engages with the slot but doesn’t activate the jackpot, their deposit becomes an addition to the jackpot.

The longer the jackpot remains unclaimed, the larger the potential winnings grow. In the event that a player engages with the slot but doesn’t trigger the jackpot, regular winnings can still be obtained. In this scenario, the gaming experience closely resembles that of a standard slot game.

Different game developers have implemented payout structures in various ways. While some providers offer either the maximum amount or no winnings at all, others also offer smaller jackpot prizes, allowing players to win a share of the total accumulated sum. These winnings typically range from €100,000 to several million euros.

An additional detail to note: Generally, the progressive jackpot can only be activated when playing with the maximum bet. Opting for lower bets still allows access to all other slot functions—only the jackpot activation becomes unavailable in this case.

How do I activate it?

You already know how to win the main prize in principle. However, in practice, the activation of the game differs significantly from slot machine to slot machine. Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we will take a closer look at how the jackpot can be triggered. 

 One of the most common triggers for progressive jackpots is the wheel of fortune. Here, a wheel of fortune appears above the reels at a certain time randomly selected by the game. After you have triggered the wheel of fortune with a mouse click, chance decides whether the wheel stays in the right place and you get the main prize.

Another common feature is collecting symbols. Every time a winning symbol appears on your reels, it is added to your collection. Then, once you have collected enough of these symbols, the bonus feature is activated. Now you either receive your winnings automatically or you take part in a separate prize game that enables you to activate the jackpot.

In addition, there is also the classic version: As with a normal slot, the progressive jackpot is also activated here when you get a certain combination of symbols on the reels. The share you get from the progressive jackpot often depends on how many matching combinations you get. For example, a three-symbol combination could activate the smallest share, while a nine-symbol combination could win you the entire jackpot.

So progressive slots can take some practice before you really understand all the features. However, since you have to bet the maximum amount to have a chance of winning, we recommend that you first familiarise yourself with the features of a game by playing it for free. This way you not only increase your chances of winning, but also minimise your losses.

So check out the list of popular providers at and choose a game you like with no deposit free spins to practice and get a feel for how exciting progressive jackpots are. And when you feel you have a good grasp of the ins and outs of jackpot slots, you can make your first deposit and go on the hunt for the jackpot.

What winnings are possible?

Progressive jackpots are famous for their incredibly high winnings. In fact, there are currently no other games in online casinos that offer such high real-money prizes. But how high exactly can these winnings be?

The year 2021 saw the highest win ever recorded: A Belgian player won as much as €19,429,358 on Microgaming’s Mega Moolah slot! This makes the lucky casino fan the 13th player Microgaming has made a millionaire overnight. Especially great: Microgaming pays out all its winnings immediately and at once. The player received the entire winnings sum the very next day.

Mega Moolah27. April 2021€19,429,358
Mega Moolah28. September 2018€18,915,721
Wow Pot Mega14. April 2021£15,183,085
Mega Fortune20. January 2013€17,860,868
Mega Moolah30. January 2019$20,057,734
Mega Moolah6. Oсtober 2015£13,212,882
Mega Moolah17. August 2020€14,679,069
Mega Moolah5. April 2020$16,495,060
Mega Moolah8. May 2020$13,617,374
Mega Fortune23. September 2011€11,735,446

So the overwhelming majority of the biggest casino wins of all time come from a single slot – Microgaming’s Mega Moolah. Last year’s surprise, the Wow Pot Mega Slot, which paid out a winning number of more than 15 million pounds, also comes from the British game developer.

The only manufacturer that still made it onto our list is NetEnt. The slot classic Mega Fortune has also made several players millionaires, paying out more than 10 million euros twice. However, there are many more progressive jackpot slots to discover than just these three variants. In the following paragraphs, we will tell you which other slots we can recommend.

So the three slots with the highest winnings are pretty clear. Nevertheless, there are many other slots that are incredibly popular with players. First of all, gaming is not only about the possible winnings, but also about how much fun a certain game is during gaming. In addition, there are many other slot machines that do not pay out such high winnings at once, but allow for much more regular smaller jackpot wins.

Woman from behind playing slot machines at Fallsview Casino Niagara Falls
Progressive Jackpot Slot Machines – How Do They Work?

One of these is the El Dorado Infinity Reels slot from Yggdrasil. The machine convinces with a really extraordinarily spectacular graphic, which is entirely dedicated to the popular theme of treasure hunting in South America. In combination with the catchy soundtrack, this makes for a truly unique gaming experience. With a minimum bet of € 0.20 per game, El Dorado allows a maximum win of € 250,000.

NetEnt also has other highlights in its programme besides the famous classic Mega Fortune. For example, Mercy of the God. We can recommend this slot especially because of the unbelievable winning possibilities: Already in the normal game, you can win up to 1600 x your own stake. And with the progressive jackpot, there is no limit at all – here, too, the million jackpot is possible at any time.

As already mentioned, Mega Moolah is the slot with the highest payouts of all time. That’s why the slot has become a real classic in the casino scene – so you should definitely have played it at least once. And who knows – maybe you’ll hit the next million jackpot?

How to win a cumulative jackpot: recommendations

Super Win
Progressive Jackpot Slot Machines – How Do They Work?

There is no universal answer how to rip off the kush. The principle of slot machines is based on the action of a random number generator, so it is impossible to predict the appearance of a winning combination. It is also important to understand that the size of your bet, the number of spins and the duration of a particular game session does not affect the fact that you win the jackpot or not.

There are only rather general principles that will make your game more effective, and therefore increase your chances of winning the jackpot. So if you are serious about competing with the casino for the jackpot, here are some tips that may come in handy.

Keep an eye on the jackpot counter

Each slot with a jackpot has a special counter. With its help, you can track how much money includes the prize pool at the time of the game. Casinos do not hide this information, on the contrary – it is a great promotional tool for institutions, which can attract even more players. Keep track of the counter readings to navigate the numbers and understand what’s at stake.

Look for and use bonuses

Not all promotional offers are available within progressive jackpot slots. Some establishments believe that a large prize is in itself enough motivation to come to the game, and there is no point in incentivising gamblers additionally. However, bonuses can significantly help in the game and at the right moment to contribute to the capture of the prize. Therefore, study the terms and conditions of bonuses carefully to be able to use them at the right time and in the right slot.

Be careful with the maximum bet

In many casinos, you can claim the top prize only if you make the maximum bet. This is not always justified: the risk of loss is often much higher than the chance of winning. Determine your daily limits in advance and stick to them – slots with huge jackpots are addictive, so it’s easy to lose control in pursuit of a super prize.

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