Megajackpots revolutionized the slot and casino industries

Jun 10, 2002 10:27 PM

Following the demise of a video lottery system in Nebraska in 1984, IGT found itself with a technology it wasn’t sure what to do with. The company had developed software for the Nebraska Lottery, which allowed video lottery terminals to be linked to a central computer. At the same time, Nevada casinos were concerned about competition from the California lottery.

IGT’s solution to both challenges was the creation in 1986 of a wide-area progressive, or MegaJackpots, system in Nevada, which debuted with a slot machine called Megabucks. The system connects slot 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.

"We developed Megabucks to offer a substantial jackpot alternative for casino players," said Ward Chilton, IGT Senior Vice President of North American Sales. "We believe certain gaming customers prefer to play for very large jackpots, and the continuing popularity of the MegaJackpots games bears that out."

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 5 cents (The Addams Family) to $5 tokens (Wheel of Fortune). All IGT 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.

IGT MegaJackpots have produced hundreds of millionaires and have awarded more than $3 billion in major jackpots. IGT’s MegaJackpots games have also produced two million-dollar-plus jackpots on the same day on numerous occasions.

Megabucks made slot-payoff history when Terry Williams of Los Gatos, Calif., hit the first MegaJackpot for $4,988,842 on Feb. 1, 1987 at Harrah’s Reno. After several subsequent record-setting jackpots, Megabucks set a new standard for slot payouts on January 26, 2000, when Cynthia Jay, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, won $34,955,489 at The Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

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 Regis Cash Club, Elvis, The Addams Family, Slotopoly, Party Time and Atlantic City Triple Play Draw Poker which, as MegaÂí­Jackpots Instant Winner games, are paid in their entirety upon verification.

IGT has installed separate MegaJackpots systems in Atlantic City, N.J.; Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Deadwood, S.D., and in Native American casinos nationwide. IGT’s Native American systems connect participating Class III tribal gaming facilities in a number of states, with the exception of Arizona, where participating tribal facilities are connected to an intrastate MegaJackpots system. A separate Megabucks system links Native American casinos throughout California.

What happens when you win a MegaJackpot

Imagine yourself playing Wheel of Fortune, Megabucks or another of IGT’s MegaÂí­Jackpots games in a Las Vegas casino. (The following steps also apply to any legal gaming jurisdiction with MegaJackpots.) You’ve played the maximum number of coins, you push the button ”” or pull the handle ”” and the game is in motion”¦click, click, click”¦and the winning symbols line up on the payline! According to reports from previous winners, time seems to stand still as you slowly realize that”¦yes, you’ve won. Holy cow, you’ve really won!

Five hundred miles to the north, in the IGT Reno MegaJackpots Operations room, 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 7,000 or so MegaJackpots machines throughout the state, the advisory tells the 24-hour monitoring staff which game you were playing, as well as the time, location and amount of your jackpot.

Back in Las Vegas, the casino staff has, perhaps, offered you a quiet place to sit and relax. They are excited, too, and are finding it hard to resist the impulse to offer congratulations. While all outward signs indicate that you have won a significant amount of money, your win is not yet "official" and congratulations not yet in order. Nevada gaming regulations require a verification process whereby IGT technicians thoroughly inspect the machine’s internal systems to insure that the machine is working properly and the jackpot is legitimate.

In Reno, the Operations people are on the phone calling the technicians who will arrive shortly to inspect your machine. They also notify a jackpot response representative who ”” once your jackpot is official ”” will present you with various documents to sign. The representative will also give you a check. In the case of a MegaJackpots Instant Winner game, the check will be for the full amount of your jackpot (IGT does not withhold taxes). If you were playing an annuity game, the check will represent the first annual installment.

In the course of verifying that a jackpot is legitimate, the IGT technician will check the candle (the light on top of the machine), compare various game programs, and compare machine readings to the information originally received at the Reno Operations center.

Once your jackpot is verified, congratulations are in order and completing the paperwork brought by the jackpot response rep is ready to begin. You will be asked to present two forms of identification and give your current address, phone and employment definitely want to keep IGT current on your address to receive the annual check on the anniversary date of your big win.) In most cases, IGT does not withhold state or federal taxes, but you are required to fill out a W-2G form reporting your winnings, which will be filed with the IRS. The paperwork usually takes less than an hour and voila!, you are presented with your check. If you opt to deposit it immediately ”” which is recommended ”” you’re provided with a phone number for an IGT specialist who will verify to your bank that the check is legitimate.

A few days after your jackpot, an IGT representative will be in touch to finalize a few follow-up steps but, essentially, you are done. Now comes the fun part ”” living the rest of your life as a lucky MegaÂí­Jackpots winner!