What’s the most important number to pay attention to when gambling online? You might think it’s your bank balance, and you’re probably correct. But, jostling for position as ‘most important number’ is the return to player (RTP) rate. When playing the online casinos, this is the number that will tell you how much they pay back to their players.
Every time you place a bet, you have a certain chance of winning which is lower than the chance of losing. Over time, and when you pool together every player’s wagers, the house wins by a certain percentage and the players lose by a certain percentage. The RTP is the percentage of money wagered that goes back (i.e. ‘returns’ to the players). It’s calculated by subtracting the house’s cut from the total amount of money spent by players.
For example, online casino games with an RTP of 96.60% – such as Mega Moolah – return 96.60% of the money spent by players back to the players. That means the game operator/house’s cut is 3.40% over time.
This does not mean that each time you wager £10 you’ll win back at least £9.60. It means that over the long-term, all players of the particular game will receive back 96.60%, but collectively.
It can be a bit difficult to get your head around, so here’s an example to make it easier to understand:
Say a particular game attracts 100 players and they each wager £10 on Mega Moolah. £1000 goes into the slot machine, and, with an RTP of 96.60%, £966 goes back to the players (£34 goes to the operator/casino). But the game doesn’t dish the £966 out equally amongst players. One person in 100 may receive £900 and two may receive £33. That means that 97 of those 100 people never get so much as a bean back from their £10 wager.
So, an RTP of 96.60% means that players receive that much back COLLECTIVELY, not individually.
So Why Pay Attention to RTP?
The slot machines are games of chance, but the higher the RTP, the higher the overall odds of winning are. Plus, the whole point of playing casino games is that it’s a gamble – you know you might not win.
However, if you are one of the lucky ones, you want to ensure that the amount you win is decent and the higher the RTP, the better because it means the house takes less of a cut and that means more money in the pot for winners.
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How Do Casinos Calculate the RTP?
There are two different ways to calculate the RTP:
- Theoretical RTP: game operators calculate this by understanding the odds of winning the game. It’s how much the machine should payout over the long-term. But, as you know, Lady Luck is fickle and the expected odds don’t necessarily reflect reality (and sometimes the games can go wrong and payout too much or too little).
- Actual RTP: this is the amount that the games actually payout. At the end of the month, the game operators will look at how much players wagered and how much the game paid out to get an accurate figure of the RTP for that month.
The Actual RTP will vary month-by-month, but overall will drift closer to the theoretical RTP. If the casinos published their RTP, it would be a great way to discover which slots were loaded for a win each month. But, alas, they don’t. They keep that information to themselves.
You may be wondering how accurate these figures are, but rest assured that if you’re gambling with a UK-licenced casino, they’re safe. The Gambling Commission mandates that casinos audit their games for RTP accuracy.
How Do You Find the RTP for a Particular Game?
Finding the RTP isn’t always easy, but all online casinos should have the information readily available somewhere on their site. Often it’s on the footer in the game section:
If you can’t find it on the site, you can look up the RTP with the actual game provider. For example, with Mega Moolah, you can visit Microgaming’s website for information; Microgaming is the game manufacturer for Mega Moolah. Unfortunately, their website doesn’t provide game information for UK citizens. When this happens, you can contact them directly and ask for the RTP.
Alternatively, contact the online casino (not the game provider) you want to play with and they should happily provide you with this information. If they don’t, it’s a red flag to avoid that casino – why are they hiding vital information from you?
Need help choosing a safe and reliable casino? Read our “How to Choose an Online Casino” guide for helpful tips and advice.
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