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It is now possible to play online slots from a personal computer, laptop or even a mobile device—anywhere, anytime—and win real cash. Over the past few years, the developers of online applications have proven that they are able to create web-based slots that can do just about anything “real” slot machines do, from paying out huge progressive jackpots to rewarding frequent players through loyalty programs. In fact, in many ways the virtual versions are even better.
For example, it can take a year or more from initial concept to physical delivery to produce a new slot game for land-based casinos. On the Internet, where no bulky equipment is required, it only takes a couple of months to develop the software for a comparable new game. That’s why movie-themed slots like Gladiator and Iron Man II could be rolled out online almost simultaneously with the release of the films in theaters.
What’s more, online slots take up no physical space, so no areas have to be cleared to move the new versions in. The cost of creating and distributing slot products online is far less, too, which means investment costs can be recovered more quickly, more risks can be taken by developers and greater variety is possible.
From the player’s point of view, online slots are extremely convenient. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can drop by a virtual slot room, 24/7. No trips to make; no dressing up to go out. Play is totally spontaneous, and there is never any waiting for a seat. Also, because credit or debit cards can be used to play online, there’s no need to carry the cash that most bricks and mortar casinos require.
The payouts, on the other hand, are just as real as any folding currency. Winnings accrue to the player’s secure casino account for withdrawal on demand via check, wire transfer, eWallet or other financial channels approved by the online casino.
For many years, the only really large jackpots available to slot players were in real casinos—spearheaded in 1986 by the introduction of the world’s first progressive slot game, Megabucks. Fifteen years later, Microgaming launched its own version on the Internet—the online Progressive Jackpot Network (PJN).
In 2002, the first massive online payout was announced—$1.59 million claimed on a virtual slot game called “Major Millions.” By the end of 2010, PJN had paid out over $280 million to more than 7,200 winners, including 13 “instant” millionaires.
Today, most major online casinos feature several progressive slots. William Hill, for example, has no fewer than 20 “jackpot” slots in its line-up. And the prize pools just keep getting larger, such as the five-reel game called Major Moolah; this progressive slot opened 2012 with more than $2.5 million waiting for a lucky winner.
Not everyone can hit the biggest jackpot, of course. That’s why payout percentages are so important—the ratio of winnings paid to cash played. Most Native American casinos have slots that return anything from a low of 80% to a high of 90%. On the Las Vegas Strip, the ratio may be as high as 95%. By contrast, the Internet’s most reliable sites yield 96.0%~ 97.5%. The reason for the difference is greater competition in addition to lower overheads.
With so many variations of online slots to play, it is important to study the winning patterns and corresponding odds. Among the newer versions, most offer higher payouts on their bonus games than they do for combinations of matching symbols on the reels. Moreover, to win the maximum jackpot, most games require that the maximum bet possible must be made on the winning spin.
One convenient aspect of online slots played for cash is the “Help” button that gives ready access to odds charts and descriptions of available bonuses. All of the rules should be clearly explained. Online tutorials, FAQ sections on the web site and customer service support via real-time chat are typically offered, too.