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An Expert's Overview of Progressive Slots

22 August 2001

Today I continue my series on progressive slot machines and how to better understand them by consulting one of the experts in the gaming industry. John Clausen is vice-president of slot operations at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., which also happens to be the home of a bank of progressive slot machines which has been making quite a bit of news in local gaming circles of late.

The particular machines we're alluding to is the "Who Wants to be a Binionaire" bank located on the main level of the vessel. During a 30-day period earlier this year, it was hit three times: On Feb. 26 for $278,000, on March 1 for $153,000, and on March 21 for $172,000, a remarkable binge for a game with such a high jackpot threshold.

What makes the "Who Wants to be a Binionaire" slots even more intriguing is the fact it is a 3-coin dollar progressive AND the casino seeds the pot with $150,000 in start-up money. It is unusual for a dollar progressive to have jackpots in 6-figures. In fact, they are usually substantially less. I've seen a 3-coin $5 progressive (that's a $15 investment!) at the Grand Victoria in Elgin, Ill., with far less than the Hammond's Binionaire bank.

To put things into even greater perspective, consider some of these top award options that are available on regular 3-coin dollar games that are not linked to a progressive: Double Diamond: $2,500; Triple Diamond: $4,000; Red, White, & Blue Sevens: $10,000; Five Times Pay: $15,000.

Clausen, whose vast experience in the gaming industry gives him a feel for what players like, noted that progressives are often targeted by veteran slot players: "During my time working in Nevada, I began to observe the more knowledgeable players gravitate toward the progressives, be they video poker or the traditional reel variety. A progressive jackpot gives them something to shoot for, and it also adds to the excitement of the game. You'd always see the 'locals' come in greater numbers when the progressives started heating up."

Residents of Las Vegas and other Nevada cities and towns tend to become familiar with the games at particular casinos because they are able to visit on a regular basis. By paying attention to the levels at which the progressives are hit gives them a feel for when mathematical probability dictates they are "due", and, therefore, when they are getting the best bang for their slot playing dollars.

"It is our feeling that in many respects we are in a true locals market that is continuing to grow," Clausen continued. "Bringing in a progressive such as Who Wants to be a Binionaire creates the kind of interest and attention that our patrons are looking for.

"Actually, Hammond was not the first place to have them. Our sister property in Tunica, Mississippi, debuted them about six to nine months before we brought them in late last November. We studied the game down there, liked what we saw, and decided to copy it for our new Hammond location.

"Unlike most progressives, which have one straight-linked percentage 'hold' (the amount of money held by the machine versus the amount it pays out over an extended period), the 11 Who Wants to be a Binionaire machines have three different game percentages."

What does this mean? Essentially this: Each of the machines in straight-linked progressives theoretically has an equal chance of hitting the jackpot. With the Who Wants to be a Binionaire machines, the different game percentages housed in their computer programs means that some of the machines are programmed to pay out more over the long haul and perhaps, theoretically, have a greater chance of hitting the progressive jackpot than others.

Curiously, two of the progressive jackpots which were awarded in less than a month's time came on the same machine!

Next week some concluding insight from John Clausen and a couple of tips to keep in mind the next time you sit down to play a progressive!

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp