What Is Return to Player and How It Works at Online Casinos

What Is Return to Player and How It Works at Online Casinos

July 12, 2016.

If you’ve ever browsed through an online casino or checked out info about online slots prior to playing them, you must’ve come across the acronym RTP dozens of times. The letters stand for Return to Player and, in a nutshell, the phrase tells you how high a game’s payout percentage is. If this still doesn’t mean much to you, don’t worry—today we’re gonna talk to you about the basics of RTP, what it really is, how it’s calculated and why it should (or shouldn’t) matter to you.

What Exactly Is RTP?

First of all, RTP tells you how much of all the money bet on a slot or another casino game will be paid back to players over a certain amount of time. It’s expressed in percentages and the higher the percentage, the more often you can win over a longer period of time. Every slot has its own RTP, as does every online casino based on the average value of the RTP percentages of all the casino games found in their assortment.

RTP is a theoretical statistical calculation and shouldn’t be taken entirely literally.

Now, what’s important to note is that this number is a theoretical statistical calculation and can in no way be taken completely literally. What does this mean? Basically, you need to keep in mind that there will always be huge random wins—like hitting a mega jackpot—and longer streaks of losses, so the number won’t apply in these cases. Otherwise, the RTP will tell you the average estimation for the slot or game in question.

The Flip Side of the House Edge

You can also think of RTP as the other end of the house edge. If you, for example, know that a casino table game like American roulette has the house advantage of 5.26%, the RTP could be seen as 100% - 5.26% = 94.74%. Still, like we said, it’s only in theory and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Is There a Correlation between Win Frequency and RTP?

RTPs can also be a bit misleading in a way. Why? Because a game’s RTP doesn’t tell you how often you can expect to win. For example, an online slot with a RTP of 97% a low frequency of payouts might only have a winning combo once in ten spins on average, while another 97% RTP slot might have winning combinations once in every three spins on average. The catch is that slots with higher win frequencies pay out more often but in smaller amounts, while slots with lower win frequencies pay out larger sums every once in a while.

Random and Fair Payouts

When trying to wrap your head around casino game statistics, it’s vital to understand these numbers are based on thousands of events. The important bit is that they are subject to chance as Random Number Generators govern them and make sure the result is always unbiased and arbitrary.

Thanks to Random Number Generators, your chances of winning are always the same and the results of casino games remain arbitrary and fair.

So, when you hear people say that an online slot will pay out in regular intervals, know that it’s an online gambling myth. Slot machines are not aware they’ve just cashed out a huge win, which means every single spin is independent and even if you’ve just hit a jackpot, you could still hit a big win on the next spin. In short, your chances of winning are exactly the same every time you play the game, thanks to RNGs.


Ultimately, if you’re a regular Joe like us, you won’t really be able to work out the mathematics behind an online slot’s RTP as you have no insight into the slot machine’s internal programming. The only thing you can do is look for online casinos that unequivocally post RTPs for their slots—which should be public, anyway—as it testifies to the casinos’ trustworthiness.

Share Your Thoughts with Us

How important is Return to Player to you? Do you regularly check a slot’s RTP percentage before turning its reels? Or do you perhaps think other factors are far more important when choosing an online or mobile slot to play? Make sure you tell us what you think—we’ll be eagerly waiting for you at our forum!