What Does RTP (Return to Player) Mean?

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What Does RTP (Return to Player) Mean?

Return to Player (RTP) is a term used by online casino operators to describe the percentage of the total money wagered on a specific type of slot or game that will be paid back to players over time. But how should that affect the game choices you make?

What Does RTP (Return to Player) Mean?

Casino ‘Return To Player’ (RTP) is the phrase used to explain the sum of money, in an ideal world, that a casino game or casino slot pays back to its customers. It is shown as a percentage and is calculated from gameplay over a long period of time. Essentially, RTP is the opposite calculation to ‘house edge’ - the mathematical advantage for the Casino in any of their games.

We say ‘in an ideal world’ as a player could take a single $/£/€2 spin on an online slot, win $/£/€100 and cash out. For the lucky winning customer, his RTP is a near 50x fold profit but casinos work on long-term strategies and most standard games come with a 95-97 percent long-term RTP. It means a game returns 95 to 97 percent of every pound, dollar and euro gambled through it.

How do you calculate RTP?

In theory calculating the RTP of any game is simple. The formula is relatively straightforward: The total amount returned to players divided by the total amount gambled by players. But RTP on online slots, for instance, can be misleading as it doesn’t indicate how often you can expect to win.

Things are pretty obvious in games like Blackjack where you know you will win around half the bets you place but slots, which payout huge jackpots, can pay out less often but considerably more. Nevertheless, the end result will always be the same over a period of time, an RTP to players of slightly less than turnover.

Using very broad brushstrokes the RTP of casino games breaks down like this:

  • Online Slots - 93-99 percent
  • European Roulette - 97.3 percent
  • American Roulette - 94.7 percent

Other games are more difficult to calculate as they depend on the strategy a player employs. There are different bets which can be placed on Craps (where the RTP ranges from excellent to woeful) and there is a lot of skill involved in Blackjack. With a refined strategy the RTP is exceptional (over 99 percent) but a bad player, who can draw on 17 when the dealer is holding a 6, can drive their own RTP down exponentially.

How do Online Casinos Apply RTP to Games?

A RTP is the lifeblood of all of the best online casinos. It is the one thing that should see them turn over money and make a profit. It is a profit margin but it is very different to a bookmaker’s odds percentage – albeit that model makes it easier to explain how a profit margin is implied.

Consider this, the true price about any horse in a perfectly matched six-runner race should be 5/1. If a top bookie takes $/£/€100 on each horse his income will be $/£/€600 and whichever wins his pay-out will also be $/£/€600. That is zero profit and a 100 percent RTP.

Therefore bookies will actually price every runner at 4/1 meaning the incoming bets will still amount to $/£/€600 but the paid out winnings will be $/£/€500. This scenario sees a betting percentage of 120% - $/£/€500 goes out for every $/£/€600 taken in, a 20% yield. But this is not a clear profit margin because $/£/€100 will be paid out on $/£/€120 of income if it were a 20 percent profit margin, the payout would be less as 20% profit on $/£/€120 is $/£/€24. So it is different to an RTP in the world of casinos and thankfully RTP is a lot easier to understand.

As many online casino games are complex, scratch-cards, deal or no deal, slots etc multifaceted algorithms and associated testing is required to confirm a promoted RTP is correct and in the world of online casinos these need to verified, certified, certificated and regularly tested in order to receive a licence from the UK Gaming Commission which protects online casino customers.

Understanding and applying RTP’s to other games, such as Online Roulette, is much easier. Calculating the house edge on a wheel that has 18 winning numbers and 19 or 20 losing numbers (depending on if you are playing a single or double zero wheel) can be done with some simple sums with a pen and paper.

What Percentage do Slot Machines Payout?

RTP is most relevant to online slots as you can gamble your money far quicker with slots than many other traditional casino games. The better a slot’s RTP the more play you will get for your money. Consequently, RTP has become three small letters many slot players look for when deciding which machine to play and with people voting by their feet, the RTP has become increasingly generous in recent years.

It is a fact some slots, with diabolical RTP’s of around 93 percent, had to be removed from early-day unscrupulous online casinos. What is interesting in the modern day is the comparatively high RTP of slots in real-life casinos. They still regularly stack-up poorly when compared to slots that can be found in online casinos.

Of the few remaining ‘greedy slots’ (typically 95-96 percent) online operators actually do exclude these from contributing to wagering requirements related to new player online sign-up offers and re-load bonuses which is a fair gesture.

Now, why would you want to play a slot with a poor RTP? Well, cosmetically there are hundreds and thousands of slots but many work the same and just appear differently. But generally all slots fall into one of two categories, ‘low’ and ‘high variance’ slots.

‘Low variance’ slots have this name because there is little chance of losing your money quickly – so your starting fund ‘varies’ very little. These type of machines, although not clearly labeled, typically pay out lots of small prizes and moderate jackpots regularly.

Their opposite number, ‘high variance’ machines have a different MO, they tend to pay out wins less often but when they do, the prizes are much bigger. Chasing a potentially of a life-changing win from a progressive jackpot slot but swallowing a higher RTP deficit in the process is a sacrifice most dream chasers are happy to accept.

RTP in American Roulette

Both European and American roulette wheels essentially feature two games: Even-money shots such as odds/evens, red/blacks and bets on the main layout on numbers in a straight-up, slit, row, corner and street fashion. It’s a fact very little roulette turnover comes via bets placed on 2/1 shots such as dozens and rows.

Nevertheless all these betting opportunities have an equal weighting when calculating their overall RTP on an American roulette wheel. But the facts are relatively clear and with 38 numbers the RTP on all bets on a ‘double zero’ roulette wheel is considerably less than its European counterpart.

Bet TypeOddsProbabilityHouse EdgeRTP
Six Line5/115.79%5.26%94.74%

RTP in European Roulette

European roulette wheels have a considerably better RTP than those so heavily promoted in Las Vegas casinos. The difference is 2.6 percent which may not initially seem a lot but, in the case of backing even-money shots and to quantify the different RTP’s, a zero will land twice as often and when that happened those even-money bets will suffer a complete loss, twice as often!

Bet TypeOddsProbabilityHouse EdgeRTP
Six Line5/116.20%2.70%97.30%

What RTP can you Expect Playing Blackjack Online?

Most online casinos have different variations of online Blackjack and, in turn, these feature differing RTP. Ultimate Blackjack Surrender Blackjack, Switch, Super Fun 21, Spanish 21 Blackjack, Perfect Pairs Blackjack, Pontoon Blackjack, Hi Lo and a pile of such games come with markedly lower RTP’s that the traditional and original Blackjack game.

Played to a faultless strategy Premium Blackjack has a theoretical RTP of 99.67 percent and Classic Blackjack is not far behind at 99.4 percent. However, few players have the ability to play to an optimum strategy and those that do also struggle to keep their discipline. Nevertheless even the worst Blackjack variants, aided by some poor strategy, rarely sees the RTP dip below 95 percent.


A massively useful tool in the armoury of any serious online casino player, RTP percentages are a signpost for the best betting value on all games. The leading online casinos clearly advertise their RTP across all their games, the six highest paying online casinos can be found here.

Finding the best games with the highest RTP is the sure-fire way of both guaranteeing more casino play in the long-run while increasing the possibility of winning more often.

But big jackpot games potential can also be measured in RTP percentages with the lower RTP slots normally being of the ‘higher variance’ variety. If you are looking for a huge bounty, you are likely to find it on a low RTP slot.

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