Mega this and Mega that

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My question concerns the big progressive slots, like the Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks. They are in casinos – large and small – in many states. Is each machine programmed to the same payout amount, or “looseness,” or would a machine in a small, locals’ casino, be more likely to pay off? Also, are ALL the machines, all over the country, tied in together, or is it state by state? Victoria W.

Both Megabucks and the Wheel of Fortune are a statewide network of progressive slot carousels that are linked together to produce those humongous jackpots. A small computer chip in each machine monitors every coin played and communicates that information electronically to a mainframe computer at IGT’s headquarters. The central computer keeps track of every Megabucks or Wheel of Fortune slot machine and maintains a constant tally of the jackpot. Then the computer projects the ever-changing jackpot total to all units where it is displayed on the digital tote board on each bank of machines. When the main jackpot is hit, a signal is sent to the other machines on the system to reset their progressive meters.

As with any slot machines hooked together to create those progressive jackpots, each electronic machine within that network plays independently. Simply put, Victoria, you are playing an individual machine, linked to a statewide network of progressive slot carousels that produces those prodigious payouts. Each machine’s payback percentage, albeit extremely low because of its ginormous progressive, is the same as the payback percentage on all the other machines linked to it.

To grow any progressive, a portion of each bet made funds the winning jackpot. The rate at which the meters progress upwards is based on a pre-set percentage of all the money cycled through the machine. It is a percentage of your loses cycled through the machine that provides a life-changing jumbo jackpot for someone else.

These monster progressive jackpots on machines like Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune are paid by the manufacturer of the slot, in your example, IGT. If ever someone’s stars do truly align, IGT (the games vendor) would send a representative to authenticate the win, and then pay off the winner.

The odds of hitting a life-altering Megabucks machine are approximately one in 50,000,000. To be exact, for those interested in such things, with each reel on a Megabucks machine having 368 virtual stops, and only one virtual stop assigned to the jackpot symbol, by multiplying 368 X 368 X 368, your calculator should spit out the chances of hitting the Megabucks at exactly 1 in 49,836,032. Either way, your chances of hitting pay dirt are slightly better than zero. Still, as they say, you can only win if you play, right? Plus, putting the top prize number aside, a Megabucks slot machine does offer an 80 percent long-term payback of the money wagered by its players.

All state gaming regulations require networked progressives like Megabucks that are linked together to have the same payback percentages, but, what Megabucks machines do NOT do is cross state lines. Each state has a separate progressive total, with Joe in Michigan chasing one life-altering jackpot, and Josephine in Nevada chasing another.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “After getting bounced from Harrah’s, I’m so concerned about getting kicked out that my game has become more conservative than Rush Limbaugh.” —Barry Meadow, Blackjack Autumn

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