The most casual browser of any online casino will come across the acronym RTP numerous times. Actually, these letters stand for Return to Player, and, put simply, describe a particular game’s payout percentage. Essentially, this describes how much money wagered on a slot or other casino game is paid back to those playing it over a specific period of time.
Understanding Return to Player
Not only does every casino game have its own RTP. But so does every online casino, based on the average figure of all the games it runs. It applies to all casino games as well as online bingo.
Another way of understanding RTP is as the flip-side of the house edge, or advantage. So if, say, for a variant of American Roulette this is 5.25%, then RTP is 94.75%.
As the Roman philosopher Seneca said:
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
You should try to understand RTP and how it works. Then, you can feel more prepared to make the most of the opportunities online gambling offers.
It’s most relevant to online slots games. That’s because it’s possible to gamble money a lot more quickly with these than with traditional casino games. And the higher the RTP, the more play your money will buy you. Equally, slot games tend to have higher RTPs as compared with, say, bingo games.
It shouldn’t be hard to find RTP for each game you play. It’s typically to be found in a game’s help section.
How Return to Player is Calculated
There is a lot of math behind this. And games with more features and paylines are harder for the developers to calculate an RTP for. But in theory, and put simply, the calculation is a comparatively simple one:
Total amount returned to players ÷ total sum players have staked
So if, say, you make 100 £1 wagers on a game with an RTP of 95%, you could expect a return of around £95 in winnings.
However, it’s important to understand it’s an average from a significant number of gameplays, rather than every time you play a particular game. (Although, of course, the higher the percentage, the likelier a player is to win in the long run.)
You should also understand that it is based on real winnings and actual wagers in a live casino environment.
It comes from over 10,000 or 100,000 game plays or more for compensated and random machines, respectively, depending on their category. Gaming machines must state their category, percentage RTP and whether they are random or compensated:
- Compensated machines alter the chances of landing a prize as a result of the outcome of the previous play.
- Random machines depend purely upon statistical probabilities to achieve their target percentage RTP. Because the odds of winning are the same, they don’t change based on past wins or losses.
Why Return to Player is Different From Variance
While many people confuse the two, variance and Return to Player are not the same thing. Lower-variance slots have more frequent but smaller wins, while higher-variance games tend to have bigger, less frequent hits.
Games with a higher RTP are generally a safer bet. However, when it comes to more volatile games you can spin thousands of times before coming anywhere near true RTP.
Return to Player: Truths and Myths
- True: Typically online slots machines have a higher RTP than their land-based counterpart.
- Myth: Online casinos don’t (and can’t) manipulate RTP – they don’t own the slots offered, after all, but rent them from game developers.
- Partially true: Whether or not RTP matters for a single session of a particular game is partly true. While RTP probably won’t be reached in one session, a 96% RTP slot is still a safer choice than one with an 85% RTP. You’re still better off playing the game with the higher RTP.
- Mostly true: It’s mostly true that progressive jackpots influence a slot’s RTP. If some of an RTP realises via a progressive jackpot, unless you actually win it, you’ll be playing the slot at an RTP substantially lower than the one advertised.
What RTP Doesn’t Tell You
There’s one thing RTP can’t tell you, and that’s how often you can expect to win. For example, an 85% RTP doesn’t mean you automatically win an average of 85p for every £1 you stake when during a particular session of a game.
At the same time, don’t confuse it with an odds percentage from a bookmaker.
Equally, when the Responsible Gambling Trust commissioned research into it a few years ago, they found that many people don’t understand RTP messages well. This supported concerns the Gambling Commission already had. Among the reasons for the poor understanding are:
- Messages using technical language better understood by industry specialists
- The use of complicated terminology whose meaning is unclear or ambiguous
- Difficulties in comprehension for those for whom English may not be their first language
- Some concepts and language assume a level of ‘mathematical literacy’ that not all players have
What this means is that it is just worth fully understanding what RTP is. And also, what it is for each game before you play.
Our final thought would be that RTP is always worth looking out for, whatever your game of choice. Go for web-based casinos which clearly show RTP stats for their games. In fact, this information should be public anyway. Quite apart from anything else, clearly displayed RTPS are a good indication of a casino’s trustworthiness.
Finally, as ever, you should only stake money you are prepared to lose.