Chapter 6


Just as on slots with mechanical reels, progressive jackpots that build as you play are big attractions for players on video slots.

There also are some differences in the way progressives work on video, whether on live slots or online slots.

  • Most progressive video slots offer more than one progressive jackpot.
  • You usually do not have to make a maximum-coins bet to be jackpot-eligible.
  • Many video slot progressives do not require you to line up symbols on a payline to win.

This chapter will discuss different types of progressive video slots, what to look for and how players betting different amounts can be eligible for the same jackpot.



Just as on mechanical-reel slots, progressive jackpots are a huge draw for players. To some extent, the types of progressive games are similar:

  • Standalone progressives, in which jackpots build by adding a portion of each bet to the pot on one machine.
  • Linked progressives, in which a portion of bets on multiple machines is added to the jackpots on all linked machines.
  • Wide-area progressives, in which a portion of bets on machines at different casinos are added to a common jackpot.

All those formats exist on video for live slots. Online casinos have emulated the progressive experience, but we don’t yet find as many progressives on online slots as on live slots.

A few examples on live slots include:

Multi-tiered progressive

Zorro, in Aristocrat Technologies’ Double Standalone line in which jackpots build at separate machines;

Jackpot Party Progressive Deluxe, from WMS Gaming, in which linked machines at a single casino build a jackpot together;
International Game Technologies’ TV Hits links, where games of several themes based on television shows build jackpots at multiple casinos.
From that base, however, game manufacturers have been able to take progressive excitement and kick it up a notch, or several notches.
The most important difference is that most video progressive slots feature multiple jackpots, while most mechanical-reel progressives have a single jackpot.

The multi-tiered jackpot format has proved so popular on video that is also used on some mechanical reel games, though video remains its main domain.

There are big differences on what you see on the game. On a mechanical-reel, single-jackpot machine, you might see a pay table that looks like this for the top few symbols:



There is one progressive jackpot, and it increases wager by wager. On this machine, you might see it creep up on a lighted display from $1,023.44, and build penny by penny, depending on how much play the game is getting.
On a video slot with a multi-tiered jackpot, you won’t see the full pay table unless you push the “Menu” or “See Pays” button.
However, the progressive awards are there big as life, in the top box of the game you’re playing, on a large plasma display stretching over the tops of several machines, or both.

A top box display might look like this:

Box Display

The games are designed to have small, easily attainable jackpots so that on a full bank of machines, someone is winning every few minutes. The number of tiers varies. Four tiers are common, but games with anything from two to 12 jackpot tiers have had niches in casinos.

Different gamemakers and different games use their own terms for the jackpot levels. You might see Mini-Minor-Major-Grand, but you also might see Bronze-Silver- Gold-Platinum, or even just numbered levels.



Multi-tiered jackpots were introduced by Aristocrat Technologies with its Hyperlink series of linked progressives.

The first Hyperlink game in American casinos was Cash Express. Features of the original Cash Express included:

  • Four progressive levels – Mini, Minor, Major and Grand – started at $10, $50, $100 and $1,000.
  • A railroad theme for the jackpot round.
  • The main bonus event was launched when you landed railroad cars across the video reels.
  • When the bonus launched, animation of a railroad train would chug across the plasma screen overhead.
  • Each car of the train contained a number of bonus credits, and you would collect credits from several cars.
  • You also would build points during the round, and if you collected enough points, you’d win one of the progressives.
Cash Express was very popular, and spurred other game manufacturers to design their own multi-tiered jackpots. Aristocrat itself has followed with many Hyperlink games, including a new Cash Express version called Cash Express Gold Class. Gold Class adds a fifth progressive level that starts building at $9,500.



Some video slot jackpots work just like the traditional reel-spinning progressives: Line up the jackpot symbols across the reels, and you win. However, most multi- tiered jackpots aren’t so straightforward. There is a division between symbol-driven jackpots and mystery jackpots. Mystery jackpots are related to the mystery bonuses discussed in Chapter 5.4: Mystery Bonuses and Skill-Based Bonuses. They happen without any clue on the reels that they’re coming.

You don’t need to line up winning symbols to win a mystery progressive. That’s something that will be a focus of discussion in Chapter 6.2: Minimum Bettors Can Play for Maximum Jackpots.
On symbol-driven progressives, you do need to line up winning symbols to win a jackpot or to trigger an even to lead to a jackpot.
Under both mystery and symbol-driven bonuses, there often is an extra step before you win a progressive.
Sometimes it involves a spin of a bonus wheel, which can award credits, launch other bonus events or award a progressive.
Sometimes it involves playing a bonus event in which you need to win your way toward a progressive.

One example is Jackpot Party Progressive Deluxe, which has a five-tier progressive marked by stars:
a blue star for a level that starts at $5, green for $15, silver for $50, gold for $200 and red for $10,000.

A bonus event launches when you land “Bonus” symbols on the first and third reels and a gift box symbol on the fifth. That takes you to a free spin bonus. During the free spins, you can win trips to a Jackpot Party gift box grid. On the gift grid, an animated hand points to a box. It opens to reveal either a credit award or star.
If the box contains a star, you advance a progressive level.
It’s all part of the fun, a format designed to keep you involved and entertained. Similar games within a game are used to put you on the progressive trail under both symbol-driven and mystery formats.
Regardless of whether your progressive is symbol-driven or a mystery game, you usually do not have to bet maximum coins to be eligible for the jackpot, as you do on mechanical-reel progressives.

How casinos can allow players who don’t bet the max to play for progressive jackpots is the focus of the next subchapter.

Key Takeaways
  • Progressive jackpots on video slots usually have multiple tiers.
  • Progressives can be either symbol-driven or mystery games.
  • Winning a progressive jackpot often involves playing a game within a game.
Cash Express


Just as video technology has brought creative opportunity for slot designers, it has brought challenges.

Progressive slots have provided one big challenge.
The mechanical-reels format of requiring maximum-coins bets to be eligible for the progressive jackpot hasn’t proved practical on video slots for a combination of reasons.

  • Video slots, which include live slots and online slots, have many more paylines than three-reel slots.

  • Video slots accept wagers of many coins per line – five, 10 and 20 coins per line are common maximums.

  • A few players make maximum bets that can total hundreds of coins.

  • Players commonly cover all paylines, but the majority bet only one or two coins per line.


If a machine has 30 paylines and will accept bets of up to 10 coins per line, that’s a 300-coin max bet. Some player bet that max, but many more are betting 30 or 60 coins per spin. That leaves a couple of important problems.

  • How do you offer a progressive to players who come nowhere near max bets?
  • How do you make players who bet 30 coins and 300 coins eligible for the same jackpot?

Two main solutions have emerged, and you’ll find both in today’s live casinos and online casinos:

  • Extra wagers on the progressive jackpot.
  • Mystery jackpots.



The easiest way to put minimum and maximum bettors on a level playing field in pursuing the same jackpot is the make the progressive jackpots a separate wager.

Instead of a portion of each bet going into the progressive pot, the progressives are funded by a side bet. The side bet differs from game to game and manufacture to manufacturer. Progressive wagers as low as 15 cents and as high as $1 have been used.

Usually, you are required to cover all the paylines along with making the progressive bet.

On a 30-line game, for example, the button panel might have buttons for bet one line, bet five lines, bet 10 lines, bet 20 lines and bet 30 lines, as well as one marked, “30 lines plus feature.”

Below those are the usual array of buttons for betting one, two, three or more credits per line, up to the game’s max. If you are playing a 30-line game with a 15- cent bet on the progressive jackpot, and you want to play one coin per line and make the progressive bet, you would:

Extra Wager
  • Push the button to play 30 lines plus feature.
  • Push the button to play one coin per line.
  • That would give you a total wager of 45 cents – 30 cents on the main game, and 15 cents on the progressive.

If the max wager is 10 coins per line, then the total max bet would be $3.15 – $3 on the main game and 15 cents on the progressive. That puts players with vastly different bet sizes on a level field in pursuing the progressive. The max bettor is wagering 10 times as much on the main game as the player betting the minimum per line, but they are contributing the same 15 cents per spin to the progressive pool.

That enables them to play for the same jackpot.



As discussed in Chapter 5: Bonus Events, mystery bonuses are triggered without lining up winning symbols on a payline. Mystery pays can be triggered when:

  • A randomly selected time is reached.
  • A randomly selected wagering total is reached.
  • A randomly selected jackpot amount is reached.

For progressive jackpots, let’s look at that last item more closely.

Let’s say the third level of a four-level jackpot starts building at $100, and that one cent of every dollar wagered is added to the pot. Further, let’s say the game is programmed so that the jackpot must be paid before it reaches $200.
A random number generator selects a total between $100 and $200. The player whose wager pushes the jackpot to that amount wins it. To make up an example, pretend you’re betting $3 per spin of the reels and I’m betting 30 cents.

Now let’s say the RNG has selected a payoff amount of $142.34. As you and I play, we see the jackpot at $142.31. We don’t know it’s getting close to payoff time, but it is. Each time you make your $3 bet, you’re adding 3 cents to the jackpot. It takes 10 of my 30-cent bets to add 3 cents to the pot.

So to push the jackpot from $142.31 to the payoff point of $142.34, you only have to make one more bet. I would have to make 10 more bets. You can see how it works in this chart. In a casino, neither player would necessarily be playing alone, and another player might win the jackpot before Player A or B makes the crucial bet.

Bigger bet

You’re betting 10 times as much per spin as I am, but you’re also adding 10 times as much to the progressive pot and have 10 times as many chances per spin to push the jackpot to the payoff point.

Now we can play for the same jackpot, even though we’re betting vastly different amounts, because you have proportionately more chances to win with your bigger bets. The same principal applies if progressive jackpots are triggered through mystery bonus events that also could bring credits or free spins instead of a jackpot.

Instead of a jackpot amount, imagine a mystery bonus event is triggered when a certain wagering total is reached. In a hypothetical game, let’s say a mystery bonus that could lead to a progressive is triggered when total wagers on the bank of linked machines reaches a total between $250 and $500.

Let’s walk through a few steps:

  • The RNG selects $383.17 as the target.
  • The player whose wager pushes the total wagers at the linked games to $383.17 goes to the bonus.
  • You’re betting $3 per spin; I’m betting 30 cents.
  • Each bet you make pushes the total $3 closer to the target. Each bet I make pushes only 30 cents nearer the target.
  • You are 10 times more likely than I am to make the bet that triggers the bonus event.

None of that interferes with the randomness of the game. The odds per wager size are the same for everybody. But bigger bettors will go to the bonus event or win the jackpot proportionately more often. And that allows bettors big and small to play for the same jackpot.



Key Takeaways
  • Players with vastly different bet sizes can play for the same jackpot on most video slots.
  • Some video slots use side bets to fund jackpots.
  • Mystery progressives use a random number generator to set a payoff target.



  1. Do you have to bet the max to be eligible to win video slot progressives?
  2. True or False: The biggest jackpot is always paid for lining up five jackpot symbols on the center line.
  3. Video slot progressives usually have: A. a single progressive jackpot; B. four progressive tiers; C. multiple progressive tiers, though the number can vary.
  4. True or False: Wide-area progressives such as Megabucks, popular on three-reel slots, aren’t used on video slots.
  5. You can win a progressive jackpot: A. by lining up winning symbols on a payline; B. as a mystery payoff, without any clue that it’s coming; C. as part of a bonus event; D. any of the above, depending on the game.
  6. What slot manufacturer popularized multi-tier progressives with its Hyperlink series?
  7. Name two ways slot manufacturers can enable players betting different amounts to play for the same jackpot.
  8. True or False: When separate progressive bets are required, all players contribute the same amount to the jackpot.
  9. In a game with a mystery progressive, does a small bettor have the same chance to win as a big bettor?
  10. True or false: Games with mystery payouts use a random number generator to select a time, total wager amount or jackpot amount to trigger a payoff.


  1. No, on most video slots you do not have to bet the max to be eligible to win progressives.
  2. False. The biggest jackpot on video slot progressive is not always paid for lining up five jackpot symbols on the center line. Some jackpots are awarded without lining up winning symbols.
  3. C. Video slot progressives usually have multiple progressive tiers, though the number can vary.
  4. False: Wide-area progressives are used on video slots, with IGT’s TV Hits links being one example.
  5. D. You can win a progressive jackpot by any of the following, depending on game: lining up winning symbols on a payline; as a mystery payoff, without any clue that it’s coming; or as part of a bonus event.
  6. Aristocrat Technologies popularized multi-tier progressives with its Hyperlink series, with the first U.S. Hyperlink game being Cash Express.
  7. Slot manufacturers can enable players betting different amounts to play for the same jackpot by using separate jackpot bets or with mystery payoffs.
  8. True: When separate progressive bets are required, all players contribute the same amount to the jackpot. You might bet 30 cents, $3 or some other amount on the main game, but still must make the specified progressive bet to be eligible for the jackpot.
  9. In a game with a mystery progressive, small bettors get fewer chances per spin to trigger the jackpot or jackpot event than big bettors. Big bettors will win more often, though small bettors will win in proportion to their bet size.
  10. True: Games with mystery payouts use a random number generator to select a time, total wager amount or jackpot amount to trigger a payoff.

Written by 


For nearly 25 years, John Grochowski has been one of the most prolific gaming writers in the United States. He’s been ranked ninth by GamblingSites among the top 11 gambling experts at Gambling Sites and his Video Poker Answer Book was ranked eighth among the best gambling books of all time.