It will come as no shock to learn that licensed casinos (you should never play at an unlicensed casino) must adhere to certain regulations to operate online. One of those regulations is the publication of payout rates for games. These are tested by independent bodies like eCOGRA, TST, GLI and others, after which an official figure is published – the RTP (return to player). If you look at the rules of a game on a licensed casino site, you will see its RTP figure.
The RTP is basically the percentage that a game pays back over time. If a game has an RTP of 95%, it is programmed to eventually return 95% to players. If it is 97%, then that’s the percentage amount paid back. It’s a simple concept to understand, and you’ll also appreciate that a higher RTP is more attractive for players. Think of it as a reverse house edge: the higher the RTP, the less profit the casino makes, and that’s better for players. Or, at least, it is in theory.
RTP is a popular talking point among players
Players will talk about RTP on casino forums, and games can become popular on the strength of that measure. Gorilla Gold Megaways, a new release last year, is marketed on the strength of its RTP of 97% (quite high for a slot), whereas games like the classic Blood Suckers slot by NetEnt has been popular for years thanks to its 98% RTP rate. But is it that important?
To understand whether RTP should be viewed as important or not, we need to go back and look how it is measured. Millions of bets (potentially) over a long period of time (weeks and months) are needed to come up with the true RTP figure, so that’s not necessarily going to be reflective of a 15-minute gaming session where you spend a few dollars.
We are dealing with mathematical truths here that only become exact measurements after a huge number of ‘events’. Think of a coin toss, where it would not be surprising to see three heads and seven tails in ten attempts. But if you were to toss the coin one million times, the math makes it more likely to be 50/50. That’s the case here.
Mega Moolah debunks the myth of RTP
But there are other elements to discuss. Consider the Mega Moolah slot developed by Microgaming with the average RTP 90%. On paper, that 90% looks unattractive, especially when you consider that slots usually average an RTP of around 95%. But Mega Moolah is arguably the most popular online casino slot in the world today. Why? Because it has massive progressive jackpots attached to it. Those jackpots, which can reach millions of dollars, are funded by the ‘missing’ part of the RTP. When all is said and done, the casino makes the same profit from Mega Moolah as it does from the other slots.
Getting back to the point about the coin toss; there is a more important truth here. Namely, it’s not the RTP that is important – it’s the volatility of the game. If I had a casino game that paid out £970K as a one-off top prize for every £1 million spent, I could claim that game had an RTP of 97%. But it would certainly not feel that way for everyone but the lucky player who won the prize. In that sense, RTP can be misleading. Big prizes are going to eat up huge chunks of the RTP, and so the average player might not get the benefit.
In the end, RTP does count. You cannot take away the simple fact that the higher the RTP, the more the game will pay back. However, it’s really debatable as to whether you will notice over a typical gaming session.