The Arkansas Progressive Jackpot (And How It Works)

Arkansas Progressive Jackpot Logo With AR and Cash Background

What is the Arkansas Progressive Jackpot and how does it work? The Arkansas Progressive Jackpot is a lottery game that demonstrates a number of gambling principles that I personally think are interesting.

For one, it’s a lottery game that resembles a slot machine. On this page, we’ll unpack the game, how it works, how to play, and talk about the expected return and the house edge.

I think readers of this blog would be interested in the same qualities, so I will share my observations about gambling in Arkansas with the lottery down below.

The Arkansas Progressive Jackpot Is a Fast-Play Lottery Game

The first time I saw the description “fast-play lottery game,” I assumed it was just another way of talking about real money scratch-offs. That is not the case, though.

A fast play lottery game is more like a slot machine without spinning reels or a video screen. Instead, you insert your money and buy paper tickets. Those tickets have combinations of symbols and paylines that correspond roughly to the kind of thing you’d see on the front of any given slot machine.

To make things more interesting, you can buy fast play tickets for AR Progressive Jackpot in multiple price ranges:

  • $1 – activates 5 rows
  • $2 – activates 10 rows
  • $5 – activates 15 rows

When you buy your ticket, you get a slip of paper with five symbols across it. If any three of those symbols match, you win the corresponding prize amount.

The symbols are all money-themed, and the prizes look like this:

  • The dollar symbol pays off at $1.
  • The pictures of money pay off at $3.
  • The piggy banks pay off at $5.
  • The crowns pay off at $10.
  • The diamond rings pay off at $25.
  • The bags of money pay off at $50.
  • The big gemstones pay off at $125.
  • The bags of gold pay off at $250.
  • The state of Arkansas with a $1 symbol in them pay off at 20% of the jackpot.

Those are, of course, the prize amounts for the $1 ticket. The prize amounts go up when you play for $2 or $5, although they’re not direct increases.

For example, if you’re playing for $2, the pictures of money pay off at $5. You’d think they’d pay off at $6, but that’s how they get you, right?

How Expected Return Works in Games Like Progressive Jackpots

The expected return for a lottery game is calculated in the same way you’d calculate the expected return for any gambling machine like a slot machine or video poker game.

Each price has a return percentage. That return is just the size of the prize multiplied by the probability of getting that prize.

When you add the return for each possibility of the game together, you get the total return for the game. This is expressed as a percentage.

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Sign

A game with a 100% total return, or “expected return,” would be a breakeven game in the long run. If you played long enough, you’d neither win nor lose money. You’d just break even.

A game with a return higher than 100% would be a game where you’d profit in the long run. That’s how blackjack card counters make their money. They invest and reinvest their money in the form of blackjack bets and eventually show a profit.

And of course, most gambling games have a return of less than 100%. The difference between the expected return and 100% is also sometimes called “the house edge.”

When you know that figure, you really know what you’re up against in the casino or when playing the lottery.

The Expected Return for the Arkansas Progressive Jackpot

We have all the information we need to calculate the odds of winning the lottery for the AR Progressive Jackpot. It’s listed on the official lottery website.

The first information we need is the list of prizes. The other information we need is what the probability of winning each prize is.

I listed the prize amounts earlier in this post, but I didn’t include the probabilities. Check them out below:

  • The odds of winning $1 are 1 in 8.57.
  • The odds of winning $3 are 1 in 10.
  • The odds of winning $5 are 1 in 21.82.
  • The odds of winning $10 are 1 in 160.
  • The odds of winning $25 are 1 in 2400.
  • The odds of winning $50 are 1 in 4800.
  • The odds of winning $125 are 1 in 12,000.
  • The odds of winning $250 are 1 in 24,000.
  • The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 30,000.

Calculating the returns for each prize is easy now. I like to convert the numbers into percentages on a spreadsheet, but here are a couple of examples of how to calculate these.

The odds of winning $1 are 1 in 8.57, which is the same thing as 11.67%.

Multiply 11.67% by 1 and you get 11.67%. The odds of winning $3 are 1 in 10, which is the same as 10%. Multiply 10 by 3, and you get 30.

Between those two prizes, you have 41.67% of the total return. So far, this looks like the overall return for the game might be pretty good.

The odds of winning $5 are 1 in 21.82, which is the same thing as 4.58%. Multiply that by 5, and you get another 22.91% in return. The odds of the other prizes get much longer though, and when you add them all up, you wind up with a total return for the game of 75.67%.

And to keep things simple, I only calculated the return for the $1 version of the game. You could easily do the same calculations for the $2 and $5 versions of the game for yourself now that I’ve given you the formula.

How Does the Size of the Progressive Jackpot Affect the Return?

When I calculated the expected return for the game, I assumed that the jackpot was at its minimum of $1,000, but that jackpot grows until it gets hit. That’s why it’s called a progressive jackpot; it gets progressively bigger over time until it’s won. At that time, it resets to its original starting amount.

When I wrote this page, though, the jackpot was actually up to $5,491, so you’d have to account for that by increasing the return for the game. It’s just a matter of multiplying that size prize by the same probability.

Arkansas Lottery Winner Holding Check

When I accounted for the bigger jackpot, the overall payback percentage for the game went up to 78.66%. Compared to slot machines on the Las Vegas Strip, that’s an abysmal return percentage.

But for someone gambling in Arkansas, it’s pretty good. In fact, when you compare it to the slot machines at the airport in Las Vegas, it’s roughly comparable. When you compare that return to the expected return for most lottery games, it’s positively exciting.

By comparison, the payback percentage for Powerball and Mega Millions is around 20%. The payback percentage for a Pick 3 game or a Pick 4 game is 50%. But it’s not all about payback percentage.

The Hourly Cost of Gambling and How It Relates to the Jackpot

Casinos use a simple formula to calculate how much money they expect to win from a gambler. They multiply the gambler’s average number of bets per hour by the size of each bet. Then, they multiply that by the house edge.

For example, if you’re playing a slot machine with a 6% house edge for $3 per spin, all you need is the average number of bets per hour to calculate an average hourly loss. Since most slot machine gamblers make about 500 bets per hour, they’re putting $1,500 per hour into action. That’s $90 in expected losses per hour in the long run.

In the short run, of course, slot machine gamblers often do much better or much worse. One of the perks of lottery games is that you rarely spend much time playing. You don’t find a lot of people buying 500 lottery tickets per hour. Even if they did, they wouldn’t spend more than an hour a week doing it. Slot machine gamblers might spend four hours or more per day playing.

If you buy a single Powerball ticket each week for an entire year, you’ve only put about $100 into action. You stand to lose about $80 (or more) on that, but for a year’s entertainment, that’s not terrible.

In fact, that’s less than you stand to lose playing that hypothetical slot machine for $90 per hour. Games like Arkansas Progressive Jackpot, on one hand, emulate a little bit of the slot machine experience. But they lack the same kind of sensory details.

You don’t have spinning reels, flashing lights, and music. So, you’re more likely to play these games for a long time than you would a game like Powerball. But you won’t spend all day sitting in front of the game the way you might if you were playing real money slots games.


I was pleasantly surprised at the relatively low house edge offered by the Arkansas Progressive Jackpot. Sure, 25% would be considered outrageous in a casino setting. But if you’re just looking for a quick giggle, you’ll probably do better at this game than you would playing one of the other lottery games available in Arkansas or anywhere else.

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