The Return to Player rate, which is often abbreviated to RTP in most online casinos, is the percentage of money that is gambled in games of chance that is then required by law to be paid back to gamblers as ‘wi­nni­ngs­’ over a period of time and/or a predefined number of spins. Online casinos use the term RTP to describe a games theoretical payout percentage. RTP will usually be expressed as a percentage amount like 95%.


In formal terms it is referred to as an estimated statistical expectation of the minimum player return. So, to make this easy for you to understand, let’s just say, that there was only one gambler. That one gambler, within a specified period of time, would expect to win back this percentage – the RTP of the money they bet. So, if the RTP was 50%, this single gambler should expect to lose half of everything they bet, which should be averaged out over many bets. The other half would come back as winnings. However, there are of course millions of gamblers and not just the one. This means, while the required percentage of money players collectively gamble will be returned some time, this will obviously not occur evenly between them all. As the phrase Return to Player includes the word ‘pl­aye­r’, it actually refers to many players taken as a collective term. It can be common for some players to actually receive nothing at all back, while others will see a lot more returned back to them than they bet. If there were a few big winners then logic says that amongst a group of gamblers then the others left in that group may receive less back than the RTP. It is also important to note that millions of games can be played even before a machine pays out its RTP.


As we mentioned earlier, RTP will be expressed as a percentage and online casinos often publish their RTP percentages for their slot games, as well as their table games. Online casinos do this in order to convince their players of the fairness of the software they use. It also provides a very strong means of comparison with their online competitors. There are some terms that are related to the Return to Player phrase. Casino games that are displayed with lower RTP percentages are often referred to by players as ‘tight’, while those games that have a higher RTP percentage are referred to as ‘loose’. When it comes to slot games, the range that can separate these two categories can be from 75% up to 99%. In terms of fairness, most jurisdictions actually regulate the minimum paybacks that games must return. This means that players are protected from those casino operators that may try to take an unfair advantage.


It is important to point out that the Return to Player percentage that has been declared at any online casino is an average of many, many players which is over a period of time. Do not think that you will get this percentage return to you in your single deposit as it, unfortunately, just does not work like that. From month to month these percentages could vary a very small amount. When playing for just a short session, you will find the actual RTP can be quite different from the published statistics. Single bets will not achieve the RTP. In fact it is not until the course of hundreds of thousands of pounds have been placed that the theoretical payout will be reached. There is no requirement for any individual machine to return the expected rate in any given period of play. Because it takes a lot of games and bets for a machine to reach its RTP, like we just mentioned, this means that the amount that is actually returned to players in any one session, day or week will vary significantly.


Many players can often be misled by the RTP, as it does not give players any indication of how frequently the player can expect to win. There is a phrase called the ‘frequency factor’, which can apply to games and slots. If a game has an RTP and has a low frequency of payouts may only have a winning combination show up once in every ten spins. However, a game with a high frequency could see a winning combination appear on average between every three and four spins. There is a difference here that lies within the games. Games with high win frequencies make numerous small payouts, while those with a lower win frequency will pay out larger amounts only on certain occasions. Still, it is really important to remember that frequency has no effect on the games RTP.


Let’s talk about, as an example, Microgaming casinos. eCOGRA (e-Commerce and Online Gaming Regulation Assurance), a non-profit organisation, calculate the average payout percentage for certain game categories. How it works is that eCOGRA will constantly monitor a particular casino. eCOGRA will report their figures to reflect the percentage of the total player unit winnings to the total unit amount wagered by players for the month that is under review. They will display an overall Return to Player percentage, as well as individual Return to Player percentages for each of the game categories. Whenever you see their renowned Seal of Approval (eCOGRA Safe & Fair), you will know that the games at that casino are fair and also, just as importantly, that the casino in question operates honestly and behaves responsibly. It also means that all of the transactions that are processed at that casino are perfectly safe. eCOGRA’S Seal of Approval is awarded to those casinos which have achieved compliance with eCOGRA’s high standards.


As well as showing their games are fair and that the casino operates honestly and behaves responsibly, it also shows that monetary deposits are safe. The casino will have a testing agency that will carry out numerous tests and they will report their findings on a monthly basis. You will be able to see the eCOGRA logo displayed at the bottom of the casino’s website and will be able to click the link to view all of this information. Let’s give you another example of how RTP might work. If a casino displays its RTP as an average 96.8% and their registered members spend $3,000,000 on slots within a four week period, this means that on average the players will receive $2,960,400 back as winnings and the casino operator will basically pocket the leftover $39,600.


While it is of more advantage for you to play at an online casino that offers a higher RTP, this does not always mean that you are guaranteed to win more. With the online casinos of today you should expect to see on average an RTP, which is usually in the region of 93.00% and 98.00%. However, some online casinos have been known to even have an RTP in excess of 100% for certain games. You should try to avoid the casinos with an average RTP % which is lower than 93.00%.


Always do your research before depositing at any online casino.