Wide-area products continue to drive excitement and energy on the slot floor

IGT has experienced great success with its lineup of wide area progressives, including its Star Wars WAP.

For many slot enthusiasts, not much can beat the excitement generated by a wide area progressive with a climbing jackpot seemingly on the verge of paying off.

“These slots feature colossal jackpot opportunities for players, unlike any other type of slot on the casino floor,” said John Connelly, vice president of international and gaming operations at Bally Technologies. “That’s the allure of these gigantic jackpot games - the opportunity to win a massive jackpot for a comparatively small wager.”

The life-changing experience of winning such huge jackpots can drive increasing play and casino revenue, while also adding to the energy on the slot floor.

In July, a 66-year-old retired Las Vegas woman won $1.4 million playing Millioni$er, a wide-area-progressive penny slot product from Aristocrat Technologies, at Rampart Casino in Las Vegas. Millioni$er became a statewide wide area progressive in Nevada last year and is available at more than 56 casinos throughout Nevada.

“Millioni$er has been on our floor for years, and we are thrilled that it could hit as a wide area progressive at the Rampart Casino,” said Rampart Casino slot director Donovan York.

Millioni$er features a second-screen feature with four different jackpot levels that can be triggered randomly during game play. The four-tiered progressives give Millioni$er a higher hit frequency so players win jackpots more often.

Earlier this year, Cadillac Cash, a penny slot with a two-tiered bonus, awarded its largest winning jackpot to-date of $760,877.02 at Little Creek Casino in Shelton, Wash.

“When the jackpot reached three-quarters of a million dollars, the likelihood of a win generated a playing frenzy,” said Cameron Goodwin, chief executive officer of Little Creek Casino.

The total won in the United States on Cadillac Cash wide area progressive jackpots now exceeds $1.1 million since the progressive’s inception in November 2006. Cadillac Jack’s wide area progressive link currently operates on close to 200 machines in 20 casinos throughout the United States. Cadillac Cash’s top progressive award can be won for a $1.50 max bet.

The great attraction of WAP is its appeal to gamblers.

“For a small bet, on the order of 200 credits or $1.50, players have a chance to win a jackpot that’s life changing,” said

Jared Torres, director of game development at Cadillac Jack. “They’re willing to forego minimum payouts for the potential of getting a much greater reward.”

Cadillac Jack is readying a follow-up product, Cadillac Cash Pump It Up, for release shortly after G2E. The product “adds new content in an effort to appease players,” Torres said, without giving away too much about the new WAP.

Bally’s Millionaire 777s slots give players a shot at winning jackpots in excess of a million dollars. With QuarterMillion$, another Bally wide-area progressive, players can win jackpots of more than $250,000 with a wager of only 75 cents, Connelly indicated. Bally is taking life-altering jackpots to the world of Class II gaming, with the debut of Bally’s 1,000,000 Degrees linked progressive games that offer Class II players a chance to go home with a million-dollar payout.

“As the progressive meters revolve, adding more and more money to these jackpots, the excitement builds with every spin on these games,” Connelly said.

Bally’s central site operations center, based at its Las Vegas corporate headquarters, monitors Bally’s various wide-area progressive games 24/7 in real time across the country and around the globe.

“In today’s networked gaming environment, high-speed Ethernet capability ensures that casino operators can seamlessly integrate their wide and near-area progressive games with confidence,” said Connelly.

At G2E, Bally’s will unveil its latest progressive, Power Strike, in which the actual retail cost of a luxury merchandise item--a motorcycle, car, vacation, boat, or other high-end prize--becomes the top jackpot award. It will also debut 1,000,000 Degrees, a million-dollar wide area progressive first launched for Class II markets, now available for the Class III market. This new WAP can be linked to Bally’s existing Millionaire Sevens wide area progressive.

Cadillac Jack plans to release a follow-up product to its successful Cadillac Jack WAP shortly after the Global Gaming Expo. Cadillac Cash Pump It Up “adds new content in an effort to appease players,” a spokesman said.

Linked together

With wide-area progressives, games in separate casinos across a state or even multiple states are linked electronically to one giant jackpot, which gets larger with every coin placed in every slot in every casino on the network.

They extend the concept of local area or proprietary progressive networks, which is a group of slots within a single casino linked to a common jackpot, in which a jackpot controller links all games in the propertywide network, and each coin placed in any of the machines increments that common prize.

A random number generator program in a single slot machine’s computer generates the numbers corresponding to the top jackpot. In a linked progressive network, the jackpot is a random choice of a single slot’s computer, independent of what is happening on any other slot on the progressive link. This is true whether the link is between two games in a single casino or among a thousand games across a state.

With a wide area progressive, the slot manufacturer owns the games and operates the jackpot network, and splits the revenue with the participating casinos. “Wide area progressives generate higher revenue for both the casino operator and the manufacturer than standalone or locally connected machines,” said Tom O’Brien, director of MegaJackpots products at IGT. “Whereas with standalone or local, revenues are based on a percentage of the win per machine, wide-area revenues are based on a percentage of the overall handle.”

IGT introduced its Megabucks wide area system in 1986 in Nevada.

The system combines microprocessor-powered gaming machines with telecommunications in order to link gaming machines in casinos across the state. The system makes it possible to direct a portion of every wager into one large collective jackpot. The opportunity to win multi-million-dollar jackpots is attractive to players and results in a higher level of play for progressive machines.  

At the Global Gaming Expo, Bally Technologies’ will unveil its latest progressive, Power Strike, in which the actual retail cost of a luxury merchandise item - a motorcycle, car, vacation, boat, or other high-end prize - becomes the top jackpot award.    

Bigger rewards

The system connects gaming machines in casinos throughout the state to a single large jackpot that grows as machines on the system are played. When the jackpot is won, the progressive meter resets to a predetermined base amount -- and the process begins again.

In IGT’s MegaJackpots operations room in Reno, the lineup of the game’s symbols triggers first an alarm and then, a few seconds later, an advisory that a primary jackpot has been recorded on the system. Generated by the computers that monitor the 7,800 or so MegaJackpots machines scattered throughout the state, the advisory tells the 24-hour monitoring staff the time, location and amount of the jackpot.

In the course of verifying that a jackpot is legitimate, IGT technicians check the candle, compare various game programs, and compare machine readings to the information originally received at the Reno operations center. Operations personnel notify a jackpot response representative who, once the jackpot has been officially verified, presents the winner with a check.

The initial success of Megabucks, a dollar slot game, led IGT to adapt the MegaJackpots concept to numerous other systems in a wide range of denominations - from pennies (The Beverly Hillbillies) to $5 tokens (Wheel of Fortune). All MegaJackpots systems emphasize controls and security, and IGT administers the MegaJackpots fund, so casinos don't have to keep large cash reserves to pay winners.

MegaJackpots have awarded more than $3.8 billion in major jackpots. MegaJackpots games have also produced $2 million-dollar-plus jackpots on the same day on numerous occasions.

Megabucks achieved a record-setting slot payout on March 21, 2003, when a 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles won $39,713,982 at the Excalibur Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas. Another player won Megabucks jackpots twice: once for $4.6 million in 1989 and again in 2005 for $21.1 million.

After every primary jackpot, the MegaJackpots meter is reset to the system’s base amount, which varies according to jurisdiction. All IGT MegaJackpots are paid in annual installments upon verification, except MegaJackpots Instant Winners and Rapid Riches MegaJackpots games, which are paid in their entirety upon verification.