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Author: Tim
Latest update:July 5, 2024

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You may have seen the term dotted around in online casinos, slot/fruit machines and plastered in the terms and conditions of welcome offers, but what does RTP stand for and what does it mean?

Thankfully, you’re in the right place and we’re going to take a look at everything you could possibly need to know about RTP in gambling!

What is RTP (Return to Player)?

RTP is an abbreviation (initialism is we’re getting super-specific) of the term “Return to Player” and is usually given as a percentage figure.

Every game played at a casino, whether that be an online or a traditional brick-and-mortar example, comes with an RTP value attached. This figure lets players gain an insight into how much they are expected to claim back when wagering at the game in question. We’ll get onto how that’s all calculated in just a second.

The RTP figure is typically published somewhere in the terms and conditions of the online casino that you may be playing at, although a small amount of digging is often required to locate the values. It’s usually best to do a little research on any games that you’re a regular at to ensure you’re getting a fair deal – the odds are always stacked in favour of the casino, but by how much is a different question entirely.

The RTP percentage attached to a game informs players how much they are expected to win over a long period of playing. It is a theoretical value and so some discrepancies exist in the real world (think large wins and unlucky streaks averaging into a typical bell curve). If you’re playing for just a handful of spins, the RTP will differ wildly from another playing sitting for hours on end, but the figure is important as a benchmark regardless.

A quick example of RTP

Perhaps the best way to explain RTP is by a quick example – so let’s do just that!

If we take a typical video slot with a stated RTP of 98% and we’ve got an original balance of $100, we know that for every $1 wagered, an average of $0.98 will be returned to our pocket. By extension, if we have a pile of the original bankroll of the left and we keep our winnings on the right, once we’ve wagered the whole $100, a total of $98 should be sat on the right. If you’ve been lucky, it’ll be more, if you’ve been unlucky, it’ll be less, but taking the average – it should be exactly $98.

That sounds pretty good, right? That’s because it is and an RTP of 98% is good for any game, although video slots do tend to stick around the 95%-99% mark, that way players feel like they’re winning often when the reality is that they’re losing their balance at a 2% rate. It makes for more entertaining play on the player’s end but means that casinos get their way too.

How is RTP calculated?

Now I don’t want to get too bogged down in numbers and calculations here, so the answer the question of how RTP is calculated we’ll look at the basic level.

Put simply, the RTP of any game is calculated as the total amount won (or returned) to players divided by the total amount that was wagered by those same players. The key takeaway here is that this isn’t a value taken from practice, but rather from a computer simulation cooked up by number wizards much smarter than me.

It’s also important to note that each spin has exactly the same RTP, it’s not something that’s affected by the amount of time played, the spin before or anything else you may dream up. In a game of chance, it’s chance that decides the outcome, something that we’ve got the random number generator (RNG, yet another abbreviation to remember) to thank for.

Slots versus table games

Although the RTP numbers are more commonly used to discuss video slots, they can also be used when discussing a number of casino table games too.

Taking good old roulette as the example, players can expect to win half of the time when using bets such as red/black (although not exactly thanks to those pesky 0’s). With this in mind, these even money bets will come with the odds of winning 48.64% of the time, noting a house edge of 2.70%. In response to these even-money wagers, all other options are calculated carefully to maintain the house edge exactly where it needs to be, resulting in an RTP 97.30%.

This isn’t how the slots side of things work and we’ll take a lower RTP progressive slot as an example. If we say that the RTP sits around the 70% mark, players know that a large number of spins will result in very little whereas one lucky player can earn millions of dollars from a single spin of the reels. The RTP is lower, but this comes with the chance of claiming a life-changing sum of cash.

Closing the door on RTP

It can be difficult to wrap your head around at first, but once you’ve mastered the theory of RTP, it can be used as a super reliable source of information when selecting a casino game to play.

Using the percentage value can help players find balance when choosing video slots, ensuring they’re not playing low return slots or looking for those with the biggest payout despite statistically smaller returns. Alternatively, the RTP of table games can be considered with different games compared and contrasted to identify the best places to wager your hard-earned cash.

Whichever way you look at it, when used correctly, RTP can be a fantastic tool in any gamblers arsenal.