One of the most eye-catching things you will encounter when visiting an online casino site is the array of jackpot games. We say “eye-catching” because it’s quite difficult to ignore games with banners informing us that they have top prizes running into millions of pounds (or dollars or euros, depending on where you play). A good online casino might have close to 100 jackpot games, each of which could bequeath a life-changing prize to rival a lottery win in terms of its impact.
But while these prizes look alluring, it is perhaps more interesting to look under the bonnet of the games and consider the mechanics. How are these huge prizes awarded? Who decides the outcome? How can casinos afford to pay such massive amounts? Are they worth playing? Below, we will try to break that all down.
The first to ask is – what is a jackpot? That might sound like a stupid question, but it is important to clarify. Technically, every casino game has a jackpot, i.e., the top prize on offer. But when we say “jackpot” in this sense, we are actually referring to a progressive jackpot. The progressive part means that it is ever-growing in size and will keep growing until it is won.
A small percentage of each bet funds the jackpots
These progressive prizes are funded by taking a percentage of each bet. It’s usually a small amount, perhaps less than 1%. But the idea is that it will grow and grow until it reaches an eye-popping amount. Some games, such as Mega Moolah, Mega Fortune and Jackpot Giant, regularly exceed eight-figure sums.
So, as you might expect, it’s going to take a lot of plays on the game to reach the massive amounts. For example, if the average stake on a slot game was £1, then a penny would be added to the progressive jackpot for each spin: that would mean two billion spins would be required to reach a £20 million prize.
Two billion spins is a lot – even for the most popular online casinos. So, the casinos tend to use a kind of economies of scale method to fund the jackpots. In the simplest terms, the games are linked across different casinos and, most often, through different countries. This means that players all over the world are paying into the jackpot fund, and it helps speed things up so they can reach that large amount. This is called a jackpot network.
Jackpot networks are also created by linking together different games. The most famous example is arguably the Age of the Gods Jackpot network. This links together around two dozen games in the Age of the Gods range, with all players paying into a common fund. So, anyone playing the hugely popular Age of the Gods Mighty Midas slot will have a chance of the jackpot, but so too will those playing sister slots like Age of the Gods King of Olympus or Fate Sisters.
It’s important to point out that casinos do not organise these jackpot networks. They are instead managed and paid for by the developers of the games. This protects the casino from taking a hit – paying out millions to one player – and allows for the jackpot prizes to grow exponentially across different casinos.
Jackpots are awarded randomly
So, who decides when the jackpot will be won? The prizes are designed to be triggered randomly by any player placing any bet on a jackpot game. Nobody – including the casinos – knows when they will pay as it is decided by a random number generator (RNG).
But the mechanics of the jackpot win work like this: The RNG will decide in advance that the jackpot will pay once it reaches a specific sum – let’s say it is £7,783,374.93. Now, as mentioned previously, the jackpots are funded by taking a small percentage of each bet and adding it to the pot. It is the player’s bet contribution that takes it to the level of £7,783, 374.93 (in our example) that will trigger the prize.
Are the games worth playing? Well, the prizes are fairly eye-catching, no doubt. But most players tend to treat the games with the same kind of attitude that they would when playing a lottery. There is a chance you can win one of these massive prizes, but you obviously don’t expect to win. It should be noted that many of the best jackpot games, including Age of the Gods mentioned earlier, have plenty in the way of non-jackpot prizes to keep players interested.
However, there is a culture that has grown up around progressive jackpot games. Websites are devoted to tracking the biggest online prizes. Players will also swap tips and advice on playing. Moreover, some casinos will run – usually smaller – jackpot games that are localised to that casino only.
The above is a fairly rough explanation of jackpots and jackpot networks. But it does cover the basics: Prizes are funded by players bets; casinos don’t manage the payouts; the networks spread over potentially 100s of different casinos, allowing the prizes to get huge quickly; the jackpots are triggered randomly. All of this is useful to know, but, unfortunately, it won’t give you an advantage when you are playing. Like everyone else, you will have to rely on blind chance.