All about Online Slots

Published: 06/09/2010

Thanks to the Internet, just a few clicks of a mouse can transform any personal computer, laptop, or mobile telephone into a slot machine. Major software developers such as Cryptologic, Playtech, RealTime Gaming, and others, have come up with high-tech graphics and audio so real that playing online actually surpasses the experience found on the slots floor of a land-based casino in many ways.

For example, online slots are available 24/7; there is never any waiting for a favorite game. Convenient access means no planning, transportation, or getting dressed up is required. The anticipation and thrill of winning are just the same, but gone are the crowds of people, the noise and distractions. What’s more, whilst most bricks and mortar casinos operate only on a cash basis, gaming web sites readily accept credit and debit cards, adding even more to the convenience factor.

Mechanical slot machines were first invented in the 1890s and, in many ways, not much has changed since then. Although electronic versions were introduced in the 1960s, they still featured symbols to match on three spinning reels along with a single horizontal “payline” to display winning combinations. Even with the application of today’s video technology, many slots still retain this format.

When “virtual” slots made their Internet debut in the mid-1990s, they initially copied the look, feel, and payout schedules of their bulky predecessors. For those who enjoy playing “classic” slots games, such as fruit machines, their legacy continues online. However, it is the realm of innovation that online slot games truly excel.

Companies such as International Game Technology (IGT) need as much as a year to bring out a new slot machine. Design and fabrication take time. Also, physical space must be available on the casino floor for installation.

New cyber slots, on the other hand, can be rolled out in a matter of months. It’s just a matter of writing and testing computer code. Bandwidth, not floor space, is the only limit on what can be delivered. By the same token, online slots cost far less to create and distribute, too. Investment costs can be recovered quickly, which translates not only into greater game variety but also potentially higher winnings for players.

Not long ago, the biggest drawback of online slots was the lack of truly huge jackpots—payouts on the scale of IGT’s seven-figure “Megabucks,” which was introduced at casinos in 1996. But thanks to Microgaming’s launch of the Progressive Jackpot Network (PJN), the possibility of winning a fortune online is no longer a dream. In 2002, the game “Major Millions” hit for $1.59 million (£1.02 million), and since then PJN has reportedly awarded more than $280 million (£180 million) to over 7,200 virtual slot winners, including 13 “instant” millionaires.

Competition among online casinos is fierce, which bodes well for slot players. They are offering ever higher payback percentages on their games, some already surpassing 96% compared to an average 93.9% payback for real slots on the Las Vegas Strip. They are also offering incentives that are difficult for real casinos to match.

The most common “Welcome Bonus” for slot players on the Internet is an offer to match deposits 100% with free cash. If an account is initially funded with £100, the player gets and additional £100 in casino credit to play with. There are some restrictions on the games that can be played and the amount that must be wagered in total before cashing in for a withdrawal of funds is permitted, so a careful reading of the Terms and Conditions is a must. But compared to the key chains, food discounts, and other promotional items offered on land, the prospect of playing with house money is a powerful inducement.

Most gaming web sites also have loyalty schemes to reward regulars. These are modeled after the frequent player programmes of big casino chains, allotting points for every pound, Euro, or dollar wagered. Points can later be redeemed for slots credits, entries in online tournaments, and even prizes like audio equipment and computer accessories. The most valued players are given VIP status, qualifying even more perquisites, ranging from invitations to concerts and sporting events to all-expenses-paid holiday cruises.

Published on: 06/09/2010

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