Guide on Return to Player (RTP)

By James Langley on
What is RTP?

What is RTP?

RTP is a term you’ll often find at online casinos. It stands for Return to Player, which means the amount a given game pays out compared to what players spend on it. Say you’re playing a slot with a 95% RTP — that means on average over the long term, the game will pay out £95 in winnings for every £100 staked. 

Effectively, RTP is the inverse of house edge, a term gamblers more commonly associate with table games. Blackjack is often described as having a low house edge for example, usually around 1%. That puts the RTP at roughly 99%. 

When you look at RTP, it’s essential to keep in mind this number won’t usually bear out during your own session. Casino game developers calculate this number over thousands or even millions of rounds — it’s an indication of how much the slot will pay out over its lifetime rather than to any one player. Here’s an example.

Imagine ten different players spin a 97% RTP slot 10 times each with a stake of £1. Between them, £100 has been wagered on the slot in total. One player might get lucky and win £75, another might win £20, and another might win £2. The other seven players haven’t won anything, but the slot has still paid out £97 — bang on the RTP.  This is a very simple example, but you can see how RTP is not a guarantee you’ll win a particular amount or even anything at all.

That said, it’s still a good idea to seek out games with higher RTPs if you’re concerned with getting the best payouts, as they’re designed to return more money to players over the long run. 

RTP Calculation

How to Calculate RTP

When we think about RTP, there are a few different numbers to consider:

  • Theoretical RTP is the amount a game should pay out, on paper, over the long term. For example, a game developer might design a slot with a 96% RTP.
  • Actual RTP is the amount a game has paid out in the real world. It can be calculated by dividing the value of wins by the total staked over a given period. For a slot that has taken £1,000,000 of bets and paid out £923,000, the actual RTP can be calculated as 923,000 / 1,000,000 = 0.923 x 100% = 92.3%

If you’re interested, you can keep track of your own wins and losses to calculate the RTP for your own session and see how this compares to the advertised RTP of a given game. 

As part of UK Gambling Commission requirements, the actual RTPs of casino games are tested by independent third parties and compared to the theoretical RTP. This lets the testers identify whether the game and its RNGs (random number generators) are functioning correctly.  

RTP for Table Games

When it comes to table games, RTP can change depending on the bets you make. This is because certain wagers have a higher house edge. 

Take American roulette for example. Betting on a single pocket with 37-to-1 odds of winning out only pays out 35-to-1, resulting in a house edge of 5.26%. If you make this bet, you can expect an RTP of 94.74% (100 – 5.26) over the long run. However, the top line bet on the 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3 pockets has a 6.6-to-1 chance of winning but only pays out 6-to-1. This puts the house edge at 7.89% and an RTP of 92.11% — significantly worse, which is why they call it the sucker bet!

Strategy also plays an important role in decision-based games like blackjack. The house edge in single-deck blackjack can be as low as 0.5% (an RTP of 99.5%) but you’ll have to play with perfect strategy if you want to get anywhere near this number. That means knowing exactly when it’s optimal to hit or stand, double up, split, etc.

For baccarat, the highest RTP (98.96%) comes from betting on the banker’s hand, closely followed by the player’s hand (98.74%). 

With craps, the RTP ranges from around 99% for the bets with the lowest house edges (pass/don’t pass and come/don’t come) down to a dismal 83% when you bet on any 7. 

Top RTP Table Games: 

Here are our picks for the top RTP table games you can find at our partner casinos:

  • Single deck blackjack – This blackjack variant can be found at Spin Rio and offers an RTP of more than 99%!
  • French roulette – Thanks to the La Partage and En Prisons rule, players of French roulette can enjoy a house edge as low as 1.35%. We recommend Luckster for its substantial choice of roulette variants.
  • Baccarat – Another great choice for high RTP of around 99% if you bet on the banker, why not check out All British Casino to try James Bond’s game of choice?

RTP for Slots Titles

Unlike table games — where the RTP is modelled on a physical real-world scenario — there are no hard rules for slots. Developers and casinos have more control and can set it to whatever they wish. They’ll consider the different features like progressive jackpots and volatility of the slot, and decide on an ideal payout rate. These days, slot RTPs are trending upwards due to player expectations, so it’s common to see slots with RTPs of around 96% or higher. 

That said, the focus should be on having fun — if you really enjoy playing a slot with a lower RTP, there’s nothing wrong with that! Many love Mega Moolah for its record-breaking jackpot payouts, but this game has a lowly 88.12% RTP. At the end of the day, it’s all about your own preferences and desires. 

Top RTP Slots Titles:

Wondering which slots have the highest RTPs? Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Mega Joker has an RTP of 99% and features in the library at Grosvenor Casino.
  • Immortal Romance has a 97% RTP and can be played at PlayOJO.
  • Book of 99 pays out at 99%. You’ll find it at PokerStars Casino.
RTP & Volatility

RTP and Volatility

Another factor when choosing a slot is volatility. This goes hand in hand with RTP to give a complete picture of how a slot machine pays out. 

Also known as variance, volatility essentially describes the frequency and size of payouts:

  • Low volatility slots pay out more often but in smaller amounts.
  • Medium volatility slots offer a fairly consistent mix of small and large wins.
  • High volatility slots pay out less frequently but in larger amounts.

Think about the type of wins you’d like to see. If you have a larger budget, you may be happy to weather a long dry spell on a high-variance slot for the chance of a bigger win, while those with less to spend might prefer low volatility.

As with RTP, volatility is just a guideline — with any online slot, there’s always the risk of losing, sometimes for many spins in a row. 

Conclusion

Summary

You’ve come to the end of our expert guide on casino game RTP, and now you can use this useful metric to identify the slots that best suit your playstyle. No matter whether you’re playing high or low RTP slots, be sure to always gamble responsibly and stick to a predetermined budget.

Looking for a site to play at? We’ve compared a range of the best online casinos to make your search easy — just browse our listings and click through to sign up.

RTP Frequently Asked Questions

What does RTP stand for?

RTP stands for Return to Player. Essentially, this means the amount of money paid into a slot game that’s returned to players as winnings. 

Why is there a variation in RTP across different online games?

Online casinos are businesses designed to make money and the lower the RTP, the more money they make. But players would be less inclined to play a game with a low RTP, so there’s a balancing act involved. With table games, the RTP depends on the rules of the game and is a little more fixed as these games model the real world. 

Is a high or a low RTP better for the player?

A high RTP is nearly always better for the player as this means the casino game pays out more over the long term. That said, you won’t typically notice the impact of RTP on a standard session as it’s calculated over millions of rounds or spins.

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James is a betting and casino expert at Compare.bet who specialises in writing and editing in-depth guides and reviews. As well as producing copy for the site, James is instrumental in making tweaks that keep our pages at the cutting edge of gambling comparison.