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A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Return to Player (RTP)

If you’re a fan of playing casino games, either online or at a land-based casino, you’ve most likely come across the term, “RTP”. While it’s easy to find the odds and house advantage of casino table games such as blackjack, roulette, and baccarat, establishing the player odds when it comes to slot games requires an understanding of this term. While each casino game technically has an RTP, this term is most commonly used when referring to slots.

So, what is RTP, how does it work, and how does it affect your game choice and experience? Let’s find out!


What is RTP?

RTP stands for “return to player”, and the term refers to the percentage of money bet on a game that will be paid back to players over an extended period of play. This percentage – often presented with two decimal places – is calculated over the long term, not per wager or per gaming session. As such, it can also be referred to as the theoretical return to player.

If, for example, you were to play a game with an RTP of 96%, and you played 100 spins at £1 per spin, you could expect around £96 back in wins, with the other £4, or 4%, going to the casino. This, of course, doesn’t factor in volatility or luck, which is much of the fun of gambling, but on average over time, this is a helpful calculation to indicate what your expected losses are likely to be.

In the above example, we can see that RTP is the mirror opposite of “house edge”, which refers to the amount of money the casino makes over time on each game. So where an online slot may have an RTP of 95%, the equivalent in a table game would be a 5% house edge.


Why RTP is important

RTP provides vital information to those looking to play online slot games, in that it is an indication of how often and how much a specific game will pay out. When choosing the slot title you want to play, this is an important factor to consider, alongside volatility, game features, and of course its theme. Knowing the RTP helps players choose the best online slots, and assists them in managing their bankroll. Players can find the RTP in game reviews and in the online slot’s paytable or rules section.

The RTP also provides an indication of how well the slot will perform. In theory, a higher RTP means there is a better chance of winning, and with more money available on a slot, there is also likely to be more frequent free spins and other bonus rounds. Generally, the higher the RTP, the less volatile the game is, which equates to more frequent wins; and the lower the RTP, the more volatile the game, meaning large but less frequent payouts, and thus more risk.


How RTP is determined

Once a game developer has completed a new game, it undergoes randomness testing in auditing laboratories. These labs have auditing programs that run hundreds of thousands of spins in a short period of time, gathering data that is used to determine how much money will be returned to players over time.

However, because the RTP is calculated over hundreds of thousands of hypothetical spins, it is, as previously mentioned, a percentage that indicates long-term results, meaning that in the short term, such as during a 30-minute slots session, the RTP may vary substantially, as will the outcome. Because of the random number generator (RNG) software that’s present in slots, some people may go through long periods of no wins, while others may score a big win early on in their game – which is where luck comes into the mix!

Many games contain a mechanism that allows the casino to adjust the payout odds slightly, but this does not affect the randomness of each spin. It is then the online casino, or game provider’s responsibility to provide players with the RTP of each game.


What is a good RTP?