If you thought regular multi-million dollar jackpots were the preserve of online slots, and won by retired fishermen from Norway, you’d be wrong. One Las Vegas land-based slot has consistently churned out millionaires since its arrival in Nevada in 1986 and has awarded over $1 billion in jackpots ever since.
Few land-based slots are so entrenched in casino lore than IGT’s Megabucks slot machine.
Made by: International Game Technology (IGT)
Early Life: Originally built to compete with Nevada’s gargantuan state lottery, Megabucks was the brainchild of leading slots developer, IGT, and has been responsible for creating some serious winners over the years.
How can I recognize it?
What, apart from the big fuck-off sign that reads, Megabucks? Other than that, look for an American tourist filming himself playing. Better, head for the American filming his amazing ‘win’ of about $7 when he thinks he’s bagged the jackpot but has actually triggered the alarm by mistake.
In order to hit the jackpot, however, you’ll have to playing at three coins a spin – and that means $3.00 a go. To win, the Megabucks symbols must line up on either the third pay line of a three-line machine or on the lone center line of a one-line machine.
Who are the biggest winners?
When a 25-year-old software engineer from Pheonix called Bill Elfritz put his last $20 into the Megabucks slot machine at the Excalibur casino in Las Vegas, he probably wasn’t aware of the history of the game he was playing.
He would have cared even less about Megabucks’ place in the history books – more his own if anything – when he hit three jackpot symbols in a row to take down a progressive jackpot of nearly $40 million.
Megabucks jackpot stories aren’t always so straightforward, though. In 2000, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress called Cynthia Jay-Brennan won $34.9 million on a Megabucks machine at the Desert Inn. All her problems were solved, you may have thought. That was until six weeks laters, when a drunk driver ploughed into her car, killing her sister and leaving her paralyzed. The convicted driver was sent down for 92 years in the clink.
What are the odds?
If you think hitting the jackpot on Megabucks is as easy as rocking up and throwing in $10, think again. Some put the odds of hitting the Megabucks jackpot at 50,000,000/1, while the Las Vegas Sun did a more detailed investigation and concluded that the odds were a far more attainable 17,000,000/1.
Of course, unless you’re from a country that has a tax waiver agreement – like the UK – you’ll be looking at a 40% tax bill, all of which goes to the IRS. Suddenly that $20 million prize doesn’t seem so big.
So, should I book my flight to Vegas now?
Not so fast. Statistically speaking, Megabucks is no better to play than some of the other progressives on offer at Las Vegas’s casinos. Megabucks typically withholds between 10 and 15 percent of every dollar played. (Many slot machines in Nevada hold as little as 2 percent.) On top of that, jackpot winners typically receive about 60 percent of the jackpot when they hit, while other, less well-known progressives pay out the whole lot.
Is it the gift that keeps on giving?
Urban myths, tales of human tragedy, and unfathomable odds haven’t deterred a generation of Americans and travelling gamblers from taking a shot at the big one. After all, progressive jackpots can only be jackpots if people actually deposit cash at them.
At the back end of 2013, two big Megabucks jackpots – one for $10 million at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the other for $12 million at the same casino – were hit in close succession. 28 years after it hit the Strip, Megabucks is still the gift that keeps on paying out megabucks.