IGT introduced Megabucks in 1987. The largest Megabucks jackpot ever was won in 2003 at the Excalibur when a player won more than $39 million. Megabucks last hit in April 2019 at Sunset Station. Megabucks is one of the most well-known slot machines created by software provider IGT. If you’re a Vegas enthusiast, you have most definitely heard of it or even tried tossing some coins and spinning the reels at a land-based establishment in the past. The World’s largest Slot Jackpots.
Megabucks is a Nevada state-wide slot jackpot network that is owned and run by the slot machine company, International Game Technology (IGT). Considered Nevada’s state lottery, Megabucks is extremely popular and has created quite a few millionaires in its 19-year history.
Thanks to a wonderful marketing strategy, Megabucks continues to ignite a firestorm every time the jackpot reaches ‘megabuck’ status. It is also a slot machine that generates a ridiculous amount of gossip and urban legend circulating on the game and its winners.
However, if you look at the real truth behind IGT’s Megabucks, even with all the myths and legends dispelled, it will become apparent that this progressive slot is a poor place to spend your money.
How Does Megabucks Work?
IGT’s Megabucks is a dollar coin slot machine that requires 3 coins or $3.00 to hit the jackpot. The jackpot is reset to a predetermined amount after every mega win. While the present reset amount is $10-million, there is chatter that this will be increasing to $11-million.
Megabucks is part of the company’s MegaJackpot slot system that connects about 750 machines in 136 Nevada casinos to one primary jackpot that builds from the base jackpot amount. International Game Technology owns the Megabucks machines and the casino gets a cut of the money that each machine wins from the players. It is common knowledge that IGT created Megabucks to compete with state lotteries.
Where Can You Play Megabucks?
Nevada is the true home of Megabucks and is found in nearly all of the casinos on the strip. Unlike multi-state lotteries, this game does not cross state lines. Best online gambling bonuses. IGT runs Megabucks jackpots in the states of California, New Jersey and Mississippi, as well as some Indian reservations.
I’ve had the opportunity to throw a few dollars in the Megabucks ring on a trip to Mississippi. I noticed the jackpot was much lower than I have seen in Las Vegas and while I did feel like, by some magic formula, my odds were better because the stakes were lower I did not win.
However, these don’t include as many venues as the Nevada edition and their jackpots are usually only a fraction of the original. Each state that offers Megabucks has a separate jackpot system with individual meters and winners. If a jackpot is won in one state, it does not affect the progressive jackpot in another.
Each Megabucks machine has its own random number and hence chooses its own outcomes. These outcomes are then reported to a central location. When the jackpot is hit on one machine, the central station sends out a message to the other machines, resetting their respective meters.
How About the Odds of Winning Megabucks?
Statistics about the true odds of winning the Megabucks jackpot remain sketchy at best.
It is certainly understandable why the betting for the Megabucks sometimes reaches chaotic proportions and has people crossing over the state line just to have a shot at winning so many millions.
But do winners really receive what the games advertise? Let’s take the example of a $35-million win. Initially, for that amount of money, winners get a check of $1.4 million. They then have between sixty and ninety days to decide whether they want to take their money in annual installments over twenty-five years or a lump sum of 60% of the money.
For a $35-million win, that would result in $21-million before taxes. Obviously, most winners choose the former and take the lump sum payment.
Whichever option the winner chooses, he or she still needs to take into account the taxes payable to the IRS. They are subject to the maximum tax rate of nearly 40%, with state taxes also needing to be taken into account. When all is said and done, the prize money dwindles somewhat miserably after Uncle Sam takes a bite.
Of course, nobody has ever refused the money all together & taken $0. So, I suppose most people wouldn’t scoff at $14 million or so.
No slot machine in the history of the world has had close to as many urban legends, myths and stories surrounding the game of Megabucks.
Typically, these legends center around the unfortunate fate of Megabucks winners, which leads the masses to believe that winning the multi-million dollar jackpot will result in an ultimately unlucky death. While pretty much all of these stories have proven to be fabricated, Megabucks still has the obstinate reputation of being cursed.
Many believe that the genesis of the rumors hanging over Megabucks is based on the truly tragic story of a 37 year-old cocktail waitress named Cynthia Jay-Brennan. In 2000, Jay-Brennan, was the lucky winner of a $34.9-million Megabucks jackpot, played in the Desert Inn Casino in Vegas.
Less than 2 months after her win, Jay-Brennan was surprisingly involved in a car crash. Her sister was killed instantly and poor Cynthia, herself, was left a quadriplegic. The driver of the car that hit the pair was under the influence of alcohol and was eventually tried and sentenced to 28 years; however, this did not stop rumors flying that Megabucks was a cursed game to win.
The fact is that Jay-Brennan’s accident was not the first of these rumors, as they circulated well before the year 2000. However, since this event, stories continuously surface regarding the tragic fate of every winner of the latest Megajackpot win.
When another young man hit the jackpot in 2003, rumors spread like a virus of his untimely ‘death’ through various ends, including a fatal drug overdose in a casino hotel and in a gang fight as far away as Los Angeles. All these stories have, thus far, proven to be false and while the winner chose to remain anonymous, IGT has assured the public time and time again that the lucky young man is alive and well, and enjoying his new found wealth.
To date, none of these stories have come up as anything other than tall tales.
A rumor, which has not yet been dispelled, is one regarding the change in the Megabucks programming system. Some claim that IGT changed the programming of the system to make the jackpot hit less frequently but for more money. While IGT claims that they did not do anything of the sort, there are many experts in the gambling field who feel that some sort of change was made in the past.
Finally, a minor rumor that can be dispelled is one that says that the central station to which each jackpot machine reports chooses the winner. IGT assures its gambling public that each machine has its own RNG and thus every machine chooses its own outcome.
Igt Megabucks Machine
So, while you now understand that most stories flying around the industry regarding the curse of Megabucks are false, I cannot ignore the fact that this is simply a bad slot game to play for 2 reasons.
First is the house “hold”. Megabucks holds between 10% – 15% of every dollar played. Many slot machines in Nevada hold as little as 2% or 3%. The second reason that makes Megabucks a terrible play for the serious gambler is that you only receive 60% of your jackpot. There are many other progressive slots in your casino that pay big jackpots, but give you the whole thing.
When we strip Megabucks from all the pomp and glam that surrounds it, we find a middle of the road progressive slot game that doesn’t give you much for your money. And even if you do get incredibly lucky and win, you don’t exactly get the flashy numbers promised to you. Instead you will have to settle for a sum that is much more modest in nature, paid off to you over a period of 25 years. Final conclusion? Megabucks is not a mega hit. In fact, there are lots more fish in the proverbial gambling sea.
- Slots Analysis
This page investigates the odds of the progressive jackpot slot machine, Megabucks, including the average jackpot and breakeven point.
For now, let's ignore the fact that a jackpot is paid by installments over 25 years and that the jackpot would be subject to income tax.
I don't know exactly how Megabucks is programmed. However, there is some information that is public knowledge. If we fit the pieces together, we can make a pretty good estimate of the point at which the return is 100%, known as the 'breakeven point.' Here is what we do know:
- According to John Robison, the probability of hitting the jackpot is 1 in 49,836,032. This figure comes from an article titled Megabucks closes in on record jackpot from the Las Vegas Sun, Dec. 24, 1999. That probability comes to (1/368)3, implying each reel has a 1 in 368 chance of stopping on the jackpot symbol.
- The Nevada Gaming Control Board indicates that the profit of Megabucks on both a percentage and dollar basis. The following is a summary for 1994 to 2009.
Megabucks Win — 1994 to 2009
Year Win ($) Win (%) 2009 53,352,000 10.43% 2008 83,981,000 11.85% 2007 88,858,000 12.72% 2006 100,923,000 12.39% 2005 100,923,000 12.39% 2004 67,326,000 10.54% 2003 83,069,000 10.41% 2002 76,842,000 11.98% 2001 69,821,000 11.50% 2000 69,103,000 9.75% 1999 74,921,000 12.28% 1998 134,943,000 12.25% 1997 66,166,000 12.18% 1996 57,619,000 10.03% 1995 65,223,000 10.48% 1994 46,760,000 9.44% total 1,239,830,000 11.39%
The key piece of information from this table is that the overall profit of the game has been 11.39%. In other words, 88.61% is returned to the players.
- According to defunct source, starting in September 2005, Megabucks was reset to a jackpot of $10 million. Before that, the reset value was $7 million.
- According to a2zlasvegas.com, there have been 11 jackpots hit between September 2005 and the date of the last jackpot (Feb. 21, 2010). That same website shows a jackpot was hit on September 15, 2005. The number of days between then and the time of this writing is 1,619 days. We also see from that website that the total of the last 11 jackpots was $167,367,727. Of that, $110,000,000 was from the reset amounts and $57,367,727 was from the progressive contribution.
The portion of money returned to players in form of jackpots is thus $167,367,727/$1,644,589,056 = 10.18%. From the Nevada Gaming reports, we know a total of 88.61% is returned to players. That means that the portion returned to players in non-jackpots is 88.61% - 10.18% = 78.44% (The 0.01% apparent difference is due to rounding).
If there were no small wins, and no progressive contribution, then the return of the game would be $10 million/(3×(1/368)3) = 6.69%. As already shown, the total return from jackpots is 10.18%, leaving 3.49% coming from the jackpot meter. Here is a summary of where each $1 bet on Megabucks goes:
The average point at which the jackpot will hit is 10 million + [$3 × 0.0349 / (1/368)3] = $15,215,248. In 2006, when the jackpot was almost $16 million, IGT, Megabuck's creator, purchased ads in the local media stating that the jackpot was 'overdue' to hit. I'm quoted in a Las Vegas Sun article about it, titled 'Pennies ready to pop'. This would seem to indicate my $15.2 million figure is not far off.
If j is the jackpot at which the game becomes a fair bet, with a 100% return, then we can solve for j as follows:
1 = 0.7844 + j × (1/368)3/3
j × (1/368)3/3 = 1 - 0.7844
j = 3 × (1 - 0.7844) / (1/368)3
j = $32,238,319.
The probability of any given jackpot growing this big is 1.41%. At the current rate of play, a jackpot should get this big once every 29 years, on average.
Igt Megabucks Winners
At any given time the return can be estimated as 78.44% + 0.6689%×m, where m is the number in millions of the current jackpot. For example, at a jackpot of $15 million, the return would be 78.44% + 0.006689×15 = 88.47%.
Everything in this page should be taken as a ballpark estimate. Various factors could cause it to be off, including players not betting the full $3 and the fact that while 11 jackpots were hit in the study period, the expected number could be higher or lower.
It also bears repeating that the above does not factor in the annuity or taxes. Let's look at what happens if we do consider those factors. For the time value of money, let's use the return on long-term Treasury Bills. Megabucks jackpots are paid in a 25-year annuity. At the time of this writing a 20-year T-Bill paid 4.58% interest, and a 30-year one paid 4.74%. Let's split the difference at 4.66%. Using some actuarial math I won't get into, the value of the annuity is worth 61.07% of face value, based on that interest rate, and 25 annual installments, at the beginning of each year.
For taxes, let's assume close to the expected jackpot of $15 million. Under 2010 income tax rates, assuming the winner is filing jointly, and all other income exactly equals deductions, the taxes due will be 30.05% for 2010. Assuming no change in the tax law, that will drop over time, because the tax brackets will be adjusted upward, but the winning payments won't be. I tend to think the recent passage of health care will increase tax rates, especially on large incomes. Let's just assume those factors cancel each other out, to keep it simple.
So to keep things in round numbers, the winner will keep 61% after the annuity, and 70% of that after taxes. So the jackpot winner will see about 61% × 70% = 42.7% of his winnings in current dollars. Factoring the annuity and taxes, the breakeven point becomes $75.5 million. The probability of any given jackpot growing that big is about 1 in 283,000, and will happen once every 114,000 years. Again, I'm making lots of assumptions, so these estimates should be considered very rough.
After publishing this article, a reader quoted a page at slot-machine-resource.com, which states that after the first installment is made, the player is given the option to get 60% of the rest immediately, or stick with the installment plan. Tax implications aside, which favor the annuity, the interest rate at which the two options are equal is 4.581%.
Igt Megabucks Slot Machine
- Megabucks Closes in on Record Jackpot from the Las Vegas Sun, Dec. 24, 1999.
- Nevada Gaming Control Board
- Slots Payout percentage, from Cassaon Casino.
- History of Megabucks Jackpots, from a2zlasvegas.com.
- Pennies Ready to Pop, from the Aug. 9, 2006 Las Vegas Sun.
- Megabucks, from slot-machine-resource.com.