Two companies working to advance progressive technologies detail their efforts

Progressive jackpot systems usually come in two forms: video or reel slot machines that offer smaller, more frequently attainable jackpots; and those that offer the mega-jackpots that are harder to hit, often described as “life changing.”

The more players, the larger the jackpots. The larger the jackpots, the higher the odds. That means players have to choose between playing the larger but harder to hit progressive jackpots or the smaller, but easier to hit progressive jackpots.

Cadillac Jack, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of progressive video and reel slot machines to gaming clients in the United States and Mexico, decided that players should have another option. Why not play both at the same time?

The Atlanta-based gaming company created “Mega Money Maker,” a progressive jackpot slot that offers players both the opportunity to win smaller jackpots while on their way to winning the huge, higher-odds progressive jackpots.

“It is a natural application of the progressive concept, actually,” said Kunal Mishra, vice president of product management and marketing for Cadillac Jack. “‘Mega Money Maker’ is a combination game. A multi-level progressive that offers both a wide-area progressive jackpot and a local-area progressive jackpot. It allows the best of both worlds as far as progressive are concerned, with players competing for a rapid-hit local progressive award while still being eligible for the larger jackpot offered by the wider area value of wide progressives. You have the chance to win the fast hit while playing for that big jackpot.”

Mishra said Cadillac Jack saw a niche that was open in the market when it surveyed its players. Players know that obviously the odds of winning the larger jackpots are much higher than the odds of hitting a smaller jackpot.

“Our players have always said they love the wide-area progressives that offer the larger life changing jackpots, but they wanted to know that when they play these video or reel progressive machines, they will actually hit faster. They want to win. So we put an option together than offers a fast hit and offers a large progressive award option too,” Mishra said. “The larger the jackpot, the harder it is to hit. The smaller the jackpot, the odds are more attainable. Players can go for big prizes and make it more exciting by having better odds of winning smaller jackpots on the Mega Money Maker.”

Rewarding progressive play

Crystal Lake, Ill.-based Paltronics Inc., also recently launched its own new innovative approach to progressive jackpots called “Random Rewards.”

“Unlike traditional progressives, Random Rewards gives the operator the ability to couple their own marketing aspects of bonusing directly to the existing rewards program designed to build brand recognition while retaining the players,” said Paltronics president and CEO Angelo Palmisano.

“Personal progressives,” he said, can now be catered to the specific marketing aspects ultimately desired by the casino’s loyalty club players.

“Random Rewards is the only dynamic bonusing system that is completely configurable assuring the operator complete control of winning events across the entire floor-wide and multi-property wide bonusing program,” Palmisano said. “It allows them to set exacting configurations of local, floor- and wide-area prizes using a combination of play-funded pools and promotional dollars to meet aggressive business and property goals. Operators will be able to decide if prizes will be awarded to carded or un-carded players and even if certain levels of club membership will receive higher awards than other levels.”

Palmisano said that Paltronics views marketing as the primary driving force behind successful progressive jackpots.

“This success is a somewhat mysterious balance between a teaser that entices the player with enough information to participate and yet, not overwhelming them with details,” he said.

In addition to giving players the perception of confidence that progressive jackpots are winnable, casinos have other options to strengthen the progressive lure.

“Winners’ celebration or enhancements add excitement to the floor. Creating a festive commotion for the winners with sound, lights and animation let other players sense the excitement and ultimately draw others to the progressive bank,” Palmisano said.

“[It’s about] tying progressive jackpots to already popular base games enhanced with eye-catching signage, high definition graphics in the overhead LCD/LED and top screens of the machine, comfortable seating and most importantly, games that players love to play.”

Giving choices, value

Cadillac Jack began providing video and reel slots as well as progressive products with “Cadillac Cash,” introduced to the U.S. market in 2005 and then to the Mexican market the following year.

“Cadillac Cash offers life-altering jackpots and multiple game themes linked to a jackpot. We give them the choice to play their favorite games while still competing for their life-changing award,” Mishra explained. “Mega Money Maker goes the next step.”

Mishra said that players also have favorite games, and mixing and linking the various games together brings in a wider range of players into the progressive game matrix.

“Players have a preference of which games are their favorites, so we give them a choice,” Mishra said. “It still all comes down to giving players choice as to what they want while increasing the excitement of the play. Players want to be reinforced that jackpots are attainable. The second thing they want is to see that the big life-changing jackpot is out there for them, too.”

In addition to offering standard progressive wins, casinos can add win incentives, Mishra explained.

“We know not every player is going to hit the jackpot. The jackpot is, after all, a rare occasion event. But we still want to give the player value for their gaming dollar. We have to give the player additional bonuses. They can be combined or separate to give the player that much better of a value,” Mishra said.

Mishra added that all games must have some basics:

“There has to be the ‘eye-candy’ or the signage that reinforces the belief that there is a reward at the end of the game. The game also has to be fun to play. If the player isn’t having fun they won’t play it enough to attain the top prize.

“You have to give the player a fair shot to attain the progressive. Players intuitively know when they see a larger jackpot amount that the frequency hitting will not be as often as a smaller jackpot. They know a jackpot in the hundreds of dollars will hit more often than a larger jackpot in the millions of dollars range. But they need to know, it is possible.”

Pick your progressive

A snapshot of the four main types of progressives

Progressive jackpots are video or reel slot machines that increment jackpots based on the amount of coins played in a slot machine. Every time a player plays in the slot machine, a percentage of that bet goes into the award. There are four main types of progressive systems:

Stand-alone progressive: This is usually a single machine that contributes to its own progressive jackpot growth. When a player plays, the contributions go to that machine’s jackpot.

Linked progressive: This is a grouping of machines that are grouped or banked together in the confines of a casino. Sometimes they are banked together in one area, or they are spread out throughout a casino. Here, multiple players are contributing towards the progressive jackpot while also competing for the same jackpot at the same time.

Wide-area progressive: This is where a grouping of progressive video or reel machines at different casino locations are linked together within one state or within a Native American jurisdiction. Again, play on the machines increments the jackpots faster, while also spreading the odds of winning among even more players.

System-based progressive: A casino defines a metric by which the progressive jackpots increment. It might be based on the business rules of the casino, but not necessarily tied to any one game or gaming system. They can be paid out in the form of a mystery bonus or a progressive award, again based on the overall casino play defined on specific machines.

Stand-alone progressives offer the best odds, but lower jackpots, while the linked, wide-area and system-based progressives offer larger jackpots fed by a larger pool of players who are all in competition for the same prize.

-Ray Hanania