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The Curse of Megabucks Progressive Slot Machine

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 excellent PR hype, Megabucks continues to spur hysteria every time the jackpot reaches ‘megabuck’ proportions. It is also a slot machine that generates an incredible amount of gossip and legends surrounding the game and its winners. However, if we look at the real truth behind IGT’s Megabucks – even with all the myths and legends dispelled - we will see that this progressive slot is simply a bad game to play.

How does Megabucks Work?

IGT’s Megabucks is a dollar coin slot machine that requires 3 coins ($3.00) to hit the jackpot. The jackpot is reset to a specific amount after every grand win. While the present reset amount is $10-million, there is talk that this will soon rise 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 Megabucks be Played?

The State of Nevada is the true home of Megabucks and can be found in most popular casinos on the strip. Unlike multi-state lotteries, this game does not cross state lines. IGT runs Megabucks jackpots in the states of California, New Jersey and Mississippi, as well as some Indian reservations. However, these don’t encompass as many venues as the Nevada edition and their jackpots are traditionally much smaller. Each state that offers Megabucks has a separate jackpot system with separate 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 RNG (random number generator) and chooses its own outcomes. These outcomes are reported to a central station. When the jackpot is hit on one machine, the central station sends out a message to the other machines to reset their meters.

What are the Odds of Winning Megabucks?

Statistics regarding the true odds of winning the Megabucks jackpot remain sketchy. Some put the odds down to about one in 50-million, while others, such as the Las Vegas Sun, put it as ‘low’ as 1 in 17-million. It is certainly understandable why the betting surrounding Megabucks sometimes reaches hysteric proportions and has people crossing over the state line to have a shot at winning so many millions. But do winners really get what they are promised? 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. Needless to say, most winners choose the former option.

Whichever option the winner chooses, he or she is 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 needed to be taken into account. When all is said and done, the prize money dwindles somewhat miserably after Uncle Sam takes a bite.

The Curse of Megabucks

No gambling machine in the history of Vegas has had so many urban legends, myths and stories surrounding the game of Megabucks. Usually these stories center around the tragic fate of Megabucks winners – leading many to believe that winning the multi-million dollar jackpot will result in an untimely death. While almost all these stories have proven to be false, Megabucks still has the obstinate reputation of being cursed.

Many believe that the hotbed of rumors surrounding Megabucks is based on the true but tragic story of a 37 year-old cocktail waitress named Cynthia Jay-Brennan. In 2000, Jay-Brennan, was the lucky winner of $34.9-million Megabucks jackpot, played in the Desert Inn Casino in Vegas. Only six weeks after her win, Jay-Brennan was tragically involved in an automobile crash. Her sister was killed instantly and she, herself, was left a quadriplegic. The driver of the car that hit the pair was under the influence of alcohol and was subsequently put away for 28 years; however, this did not stop rumors flying that Megabucks was a cursed game to win.

The truth is that Jay-Brennan’s accident was not the start of these rumors, as they existed well before the year 2000. However, since this event, many stories continue to surface regarding the tragic fate of every winner of subsequent Megajackpot wins. When a 25 year-old won the jackpot in 2003, stories spread like wild-fire of his untimely ‘death’ through various ways, 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 riches.

Other urban legends related to Megabucks tell stories of underage players who could not claim their winnings, employers of a casino who played Megabucks and couldn’t claim their prize because of a law forbidding workers to gamble at their places of work and other tales along the same vein. To date, none of these stories have come up as true.

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.

Conclusion: Megabucks is Megajunk

So, while we understand that most stories flying around the industry regarding the curse of Megabucks are false, we 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 mediocre progressive slot game that doesn’t give you much for your money. And even if you do win, you don’t exactly get the flashy numbers promised to you – 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 megajunk. There are lots more fish in the proverbial gambling sea.

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