Measuring RTP: A Guide to Understanding the Numbers

Daniel White

Last updated 7.12.2023

Measuring RTP: A Guide to Understanding the Numbers

Return to Player (RTP) serves as a fundamental concept in the online casino industry, representing a statistical measure that reveals the percentage of wagered funds a game is expected to return to players over time.

This measure, often articulated as a percentage, provides a theoretical estimation of the potential payouts from casino games. For example, a game boasting a 95% RTP theoretically returns $95 for every $100 wagered, over a prolonged period of gameplay.

The Calculative Backbone of RTP

RTP is meticulously derived using mathematical formulas and statistical analysis. This calculation involves dividing the total amount returned to players by the total amount wagered on the game.

For a comprehensive understanding, this is performed over numerous plays, ensuring a reliable average is achieved. The formulas integrate game rules, probabilities, and payout structures, offering a long-term expected return.

RTP as a Decision-Making Tool

The significance of RTP in the gaming experience cannot be understated. It equips players with important information to make more calculated betting decisions about their game choices.

By comparing RTP values, players can identify games that offer higher average returns, potentially enhancing their overall gaming experience and increasing their chances of favorable outcomes over time.

Transparency and Fairness in RTP

To ensure fairness and transparency, online casinos and game developers commonly disclose RTP information within game descriptions or paytables.

This practice allows players to access vital information readily, aiding in the selection of games that align with their risk preferences and potential return expectations.

Understanding RTP’s Limitations

While RTP is a valuable indicator of a game’s potential returns, it’s very important to recognize its limitations. RTP figures represent average returns over an extended period and do not guarantee individual results.

Short-term outcomes can significantly deviate from these averages, and individual experiences can vary greatly. RTP values can differ among game variations, even within the same title, and may vary between different online casino sites.

Variance and RTP: A Core Relationship

The relationship between RTP and variance (volatility) is essential in shaping the gaming experience. Variance refers to the risk level and the distribution of wins in a game.

Games with low variance typically offer frequent but smaller wins and often come with higher RTP values, suggesting a more stable and predictable playing experience.

High-variance games may offer larger payouts but less frequently, usually accompanied by lower RTP values. This dichotomy allows players to choose games that match their risk tolerance and playing style.

The Essence of RTP in Online Gaming

Return to Player (RTP) is a key metric in online casinos, quantifying the percentage of total bets that a game returns to players over a specified period.

Conceptualized as the theoretical payback to players, RTP is a percentage value vital for understanding the fairness and potential returns of a game.

For example, a game with a 97% RTP indicates that, on average, players can expect to receive $97 for every $100 wagered.

The Essence of RTP in Online Gaming

Calculating RTP: The Mathematical Foundation

RTP is calculated by dividing the total amount won by players by the total amount wagered by them.

This calculation, essential for determining the game’s fairness and potential profitability, is based on long-term play, often over millions of spins or rounds.

RTP Calculation Examples

Understanding how Return to Player (RTP) is calculated can be made clearer with concrete examples. Here are two hypothetical scenarios illustrating the RTP calculation:

  1. Slot Machine Example
    • Total Amount Wagered: $100,000
    • Total Amount Returned to Players: $96,000
    • RTP Calculation: (96,000 / 100,000) * 100 = 96%
    • RTP: 96%
  2. Blackjack Example
    • Total Amount Wagered: $50,000
    • Total Amount Returned to Players: $49,500
    • RTP Calculation: (49,500 / 50,000) * 100 = 99%
    • RTP: 99%

These examples demonstrate how RTP is derived from the total amount wagered by players and the total amount returned as wins.

In the slot machine example, an RTP of 96% implies that, on average, players receive $96 back for every $100 wagered. In the blackjack example, the RTP of 99% suggests a higher return to players, averaging $99 for every $100 wagered.

RTP vs. House Advantage

RTP inherently relates to the house edge, the casino’s advantage over players. The house edge is the inverse of RTP; for example, if a game has a 5% house edge, its RTP is 95%. This relationship underlines the balance between player profitability and casino profitability.

RTP vs. House Edge

The table below illustrates this relationship with examples of popular casino games.

Game TypeRTP (%)House Edge (%)Game Characteristics
Baccarat – Banker Bet98.941.06Low house edge, popular for its simplicity.
Blackjack (Liberal Vegas Rules)~990.28 – 1.5RTP varies with rules and player strategy.
European Roulette97.32.7Single zero roulette, more favorable to players.
American Roulette94.75.26 – 5.3Additional double zero increases house edge.
Craps – Pass/Come Bet98.641.36 – 1.41Popular dice game with various betting options.
Video Poker (Jacks or Better)~990.46 – 1High RTP, player skill influences outcomes.
Slot Machines (General Range)85 – 982 – 15Wide range of RTPs and variances, popular for diverse themes.

Game Characteristics:

  • Baccarat: Known for its low house edge, especially on the banker bet, making it a favorite among strategic players.
  • Blackjack: The RTP can vary based on the game rules and player’s strategic decisions. Games with more liberal rules favor the player.
  • European vs. American Roulette: The presence of a single zero in European Roulette significantly reduces the house edge compared to the double zero in American Roulette.
  • Craps: Offers a variety of bets; some have lower house edges than others. The pass/come bets are among the most favorable for players.
  • Video Poker: Player skill in making decisions can influence the outcomes, contributing to its high RTP.
  • Slot Machines: These games have a wide range of RTPs. Generally, higher RTP slots offer smaller, more frequent wins, while lower RTP slots can offer larger, but less frequent, wins.

This table elucidates the inverse relationship between RTP and house edge across different casino games. Understanding this relationship helps players make informed decisions about which games to play based on their preferences for risk, potential returns, and gameplay characteristics.

RTP’s Practical Significance

RTP’s significance extends beyond theoretical calculations; it plays a key role in informed betting and game selection.

Understanding RTP allows players to choose games with higher potential returns, balancing their risk and reward strategies. This knowledge is particularly valuable for regular players investing significant funds in gaming.

RTP, Variance, and Gameplay

RTP is closely linked with game variance (volatility), which describes the risk level and win distribution of a game.

High-variance games may offer larger but less frequent wins, often accompanied by lower RTP values. Conversely, low-variance games provide more frequent but smaller wins, typically associated with higher RTPs.

This understanding aids players in selecting games that align with their risk tolerance and desired gameplay experience.

The Necessity of Third-Party Audits in Online Gambling

With online casinos, ensuring fairness and ethical operations is paramount. Third-party auditors play a leading role in this landscape, providing independent verification of online gambling sites.

These auditors assess the legitimacy of gaming operators, ensuring that they adhere to high standards of trust and fairness. The need for these auditors arises from the variation in operational standards among different online casinos.

The Necessity of Third-Party Audits in Online Gambling

Process and Scope of Auditing

The auditing process typically involves rigorous testing of gaming software and Random Number Generator (RNG) algorithms, which are core tools in determining game outcomes.

These audits are not sporadic but are conducted regularly—ideally monthly or at least quarterly—to assure ongoing compliance.

This frequent testing helps ensure that games, including video slots, align with the long-term RTP percentages programmed by their developers, guaranteeing fairness and transparency.

Auditors and Their Role in Ensuring Fair Play

Well-known auditing bodies like eCOGRA, iTech Labs, and Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) are at the forefront of ensuring fair gaming, player protection, and responsible operator conduct. They perform a wide array of services, including:

  • eCOGRA: Specializes in overseeing fair gaming, random games, prompt payments, and honest advertising, while also providing a dispute mediation service. This organization ensures that games are fair, casinos operate responsibly, and monetary transactions are secure.
  • iTech Labs: Conducts independent testing, certification, and auditing, focusing on integrity and player protection. Their evaluations include RNG analysis and theoretical RTP calculations, covering a broad spectrum of games including slots, blackjack, and other casino games.
  • QUINEL: Offers a range of testing and inspection services, particularly focusing on RNGs to ensure their randomness and unpredictability. QUINEL also provides compliance programs to help operators meet various jurisdictional requirements.
  • GLI: Provides comprehensive testing and certification services, working with operators, game developers, and regulators. They offer both lab-based and on-site security audits, helping operators remain compliant with jurisdictional laws.

The Significance of Independent Auditing

Independent auditing firms like QALAB and Technical Systems Testing (TST) further contribute to this ecosystem by offering services such as RNG checks, game mathematics and payout calculations, compliance testing, and consultations.

These audits not only help operators stay compliant but also assure players of the fairness and reliability of the gaming environment.

Third-Party Audits: Ensuring RTP Integrity

The Integral Role of Independent Testing

Within the online gambling industry, third-party auditors are indispensable for verifying the integrity and accuracy of RTP measurements.

These independent bodies conduct comprehensive tests on online casinos and their software to ensure they adhere to operational and legal protocols, including the advertised RTP rates.

This independent testing is a seal of approval indicating that the games operate as designed, use fully functioning RNGs, and are not rigged or unfair.

Auditing Methodologies and Practices

The auditing process is meticulous, involving the assessment of RNGs and RTP calculations.

Prominent auditors like eCOGRA and iTech Labs specialize in independently testing and certifying online gaming software and systems, ensuring they meet licensing requirements and operate fairly and responsibly. Their methodologies include:

  • Jurisdiction Approvals: Ensuring casinos meet licensing commission conditions.
  • Security Audits: Verifying security protocols for casinos and software suppliers.
  • RNG and RTP Audits: Data monitoring and output measurements to ensure games generate their theoretical rate of RTP and are fair in their results.

iTech Labs, for instance, offers services tailored to the casino’s jurisdiction, including RNG testing and certification, RTP/RNG monthly audits, games certification, and annual and security audits. These audits compare actual game wins and losses against theoretical RTP, ensuring the game operates as it should.

Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) and Expleo Technology UK Limited also contribute significantly to this domain.

GLI, a global entity, offers a wide range of testing, certification, and consulting services, addressing various aspects of casino gaming, while Expleo focuses on prevention, quality assurance, and compliance certification.

The Assurance of Fair Play and Compliance

The role of these auditors is leadership in building player trust and ensuring fair play. By rigorously testing and certifying the gaming platforms and their RNGs and RTPs, these auditors ensure that online casinos operate transparently and ethically.

They also assist casinos in staying ahead of changing industry regulations and preparing for licensing audits.

Enhancing Player Confidence

Players can look for the seals of approval from these auditors as a sign of a safe and fair gaming environment. The presence of these seals on casino websites indicates that the operators are compliant with licensing conditions and are committed to providing an equitable gaming experience.

Measuring RTP: A Technical Perspective

The measurement of RTP involves two key concepts: Theoretical RTP and Actual RTP. Theoretical RTP is a projected percentage for the game, often advertised and used as a reference.

In contrast, Actual RTP represents the actual wins vs. turnovers achieved in a game, showing the deviation from the theoretical RTP. This difference is the key to understanding the performance and fairness of a game over time.

Methodologies in RTP Calculation

RTP calculation fundamentally revolves around the total amount wagered by players and the total amount returned as wins. For example, if a game’s RTP is 95%, it implies that $95 is returned for every $100 wagered, on average.

This percentage reflects an average return across all games played by all players, encompassing everything from jackpots to smaller wins. Importantly, RTP values are calculated over a large number of games, making them a mean percentage over a given number of plays.

Regulatory Oversight and Fairness Assurance

The UK Gambling Commission plays a leading role in regulating RTPs, mandating that casinos test all games through third parties and make these test results publicly available.

This regulatory framework ensures transparency and fairness in game payouts. The Gambling Commission employs various monitoring methods to ensure compliance, such as measuring each stake level, segregating base game activity from bonus features, and measuring progressive jackpots.

Variance and Its Impact on RTP

Variance, or volatility, is another important factor in RTP measurement. It refers to the frequency and size of payouts, with high volatility games offering larger but less frequent wins and vice versa for low volatility games.

Examples of Variance on RTP

Variance determines how frequently and significantly a game pays out. Understanding this aspect helps players gauge the nature of the game and manage their expectations.

Low Variance Games

  • Characteristics: These games typically offer more frequent but smaller payouts. Players experience more consistent but modest wins, making these games suitable for those seeking a steady play experience.
  • Examples and RTPs:
    • Blood Suckers (NetEnt): RTP of 98%.
    • Guns ‘N Roses (NetEnt): RTP of 96.98%.
    • Starburst (NetEnt): RTP of 96.01%.
  • Gameplay Implications: Ideal for players with a limited budget or those looking to fulfill wagering requirements in bonus situations. These games are less risky and provide a more predictable gameplay experience.

High Variance Games

  • Characteristics: High variance games offer less frequent wins, but when they pay out, the wins are significantly larger. These games involve higher risk but also higher potential rewards.
  • Examples and RTPs:
    • Dead or Alive (NetEnt): RTP of 96.82%.
    • Bonanza (Big Time Gaming): RTP of 96.00%.
  • Gameplay Implications: Suited for players who are willing to take more risks for the chance of large payouts. These games are more unpredictable and can result in substantial wins, albeit less frequently.

Understanding Variance and RTP

  • Variance affects the distribution of wins in a game, which is directly related to the RTP. While RTP provides an average return over time, variance indicates the risk level and how the wins are spread out in the game.
  • A game with high RTP and low variance is generally more predictable, offering smaller, frequent wins. In contrast, a game with high RTP and high variance can offer substantial payouts but less frequently.

Understanding variance helps players gauge the nature of the game and manage their expectations accordingly.

Practical Implications and Player Choices

For players, choosing games with the highest RTP or lowest house edge is advisable for better chances of winning. It’s also beneficial to utilize casino bonuses like free spins and extra tokens, which can enhance the overall gaming experience and potential returns.

Players should be aware that RTPs can vary between casinos and are often adjusted by the developers to a certain extent.

RTP, or Return to Player, is a critical measure for players in online casinos, indicating the percentage of wagered money a game is expected to pay back over time.

This measure helps players understand their potential returns on bets. For example, a game with a 96% RTP theoretically returns $96 for every $100 bet, with the remaining 4 percent constituting the house edge.

Navigating RTP: Practical Implications for Players

High and Low RTP Games

The following table showcases examples of casino games with notably high and low Return to Player (RTP) percentages, providing insights into the variety and characteristics of these games.

Game TitleRTP (%)Remarks
High RTP Games  
Mega Joker Slot99A classic slot game known for its high RTP and simple, engaging gameplay.
Ugga Bugga Slot99.07A unique slot with a high RTP, featuring a tropical theme and multiple paylines.
Low RTP Games  
Mega Moolah88.12Despite its low RTP, it’s famous for its massive progressive jackpot, making it a popular choice among players.
Gold Money Frog92.96An Oriental-themed slot with a relatively low RTP, but offers multiple bonus features and progressive jackpots.
Tiger Spell – Xtra Choice93.02Fantasy-themed slot with multiple ways to win, despite its lower RTP.
Gold Frenzy93.32Themed around the gold rush era, this slot offers progressive jackpots alongside its lower RTP.
Count Duckula93.35Based on a vampire duck, this slot combines a quirky theme with several bonus features.
Fire Joker Freeze94.2A fruit machine-themed slot that offers up to x1000 of the bet despite its lower RTP.
Joker Millions94.3A classic fruit machine-style slot, offering a progressive jackpot to balance its lower RTP.
Hot Slot94.74A mid-variance game with a retro design, popular for its straightforward gameplay.
Chilli Heat94.99Offers a Mexican cultural theme and numerous winning opportunities, despite its lower RTP.
Game of Thrones95Based on the popular TV series, this game offers a dynamic experience with a slightly lower RTP.

Game Remarks:

  • High RTP Games: These games tend to offer more consistent returns over time, making them attractive for players seeking lower-risk gaming experiences.
  • Low RTP Games: Despite offering lower average returns, these games often feature large jackpots, exciting themes, and various bonus features, attracting players looking for high-reward opportunities.

This table aims to provide a clear and practical perspective on the potential returns of different casino games, helping players make more informed choices based on their preferences for risk and potential payouts.

RTP’s Statistical Nature and Its Implications

It’s important to note that RTP is a statistical value, averaging out over thousands of game rounds. This means that players won’t necessarily get back exactly 96% of their bet in each game round.

The actual payout rate can significantly vary from the theoretical RTP, especially in the short term. RTP serves as an indicator of a game’s potential returns rather than a guarantee of individual outcomes.

RTP in Different Casino Games

The calculation of RTP in games like slots involves numerous factors, including paylines and bonus features. These complexities make calculating RTP and casino advantage challenging.

Typically, online slots are categorized based on their RTP into low (90% to 94%), average (95% to 96%), and high (97% to 99%) RTP slots. Players should consider the RTP, along with other factors like volatility and bonus features, when choosing games.

RTP Comparison by Game Type

The following table compares the average RTPs of popular casino games, reflecting their potential returns and inherent variances.

Game TypeAverage RTPVariance Notes
Slots~96%High variance; RTP can range from the 80s to 99%.
Blackjack99.3% – 99.6%Lower variance; different variations may affect RTP.
European & French Roulette97.3%Lower variance; more favorable RTP compared to American Roulette.
American Roulette94.7%Higher variance due to extra “00” pocket.
Baccarat~98.94%Low to moderate variance; offers a lower house edge.
Video Poker~99.78%Generally high RTP; variance depends on the game variant.
Poker99% – 99.9%Variance varies by game type, such as Texas Hold’em, Omaha, etc.
Keno (Microgaming)75% – 96.54%Higher variance; RTP varies significantly based on the number of selections.
Craps95% – 98.6%Moderate variance; RTP varies based on bets and game strategy.

Variance Notes:

  • Slots: The variance in slots is high due to the diverse nature of the games, including different themes, paylines, and bonus features.
  • Blackjack: Variations in rules across different blackjack games can slightly affect the RTP.
  • Roulette: The presence of the “00” pocket in American Roulette increases the house edge, thus lowering the RTP compared to European and French versions.
  • Baccarat: Known for its simplicity and lower house edge, making it a popular choice.
  • Video Poker & Poker: The player’s skill and strategy play a significant role in these games, impacting the variance.
  • Keno: The RTP in Keno is highly dependent on the number of numbers selected; more selections generally offer a higher RTP.
  • Craps: The RTP can vary widely depending on the type of bet placed, with some bets offering better odds than others.

This table provides a comprehensive overview of the expected returns from different casino games, aiding players in their game selection based on their preferences for risk and potential returns.

Differentiating Between RTP and Variance

RTP and variance (volatility) are distinct concepts. While RTP indicates the average return to players, variance measures how payouts vary from round to round. For example, roulette bets offer more consistent but lower payouts, whereas high-variance bets offer larger but less frequent payouts.

Understanding the relationship between RTP and variance is important for players in selecting games that align with their risk tolerance and payout preferences.

Better Betting Based on RTP

Knowing a game’s RTP helps players make better betting decisions and manage their bankroll effectively. Players seeking more frequent payouts might prefer games with lower volatility, while those aiming for higher payouts should focus on games with higher RTPs.

Being aware of RTP and variance enables players to set realistic expectations regarding potential winnings and decide on strategies that suit their playing style.

Remember that gambling inherently involves randomness, and no amount of analysis can predict outcomes with absolute certainty.

While understanding RTP and other statistical indicators is valuable, it’s also important to enjoy the gameplay. A balanced approach between analyzing game statistics and appreciating the gaming experience is key to a rewarding time in online casinos.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is RTP important for players?

RTP is important for players because it provides a clear understanding of the expected return from a game over the long term, helping them make more informed choices about which games to play based on potential payout rates.

What do third-party auditors do?

Third-party auditors certify and validate the accuracy of RTP measurements by independently testing and auditing online gaming systems and software.

How do audits affect player trust?

Audits enhance player trust by ensuring transparency and fairness in RTP calculations, confirming that games operate as advertised and are not rigged, bolstering confidence in the integrity of online casinos.

How are RTP values technically measured?

RTP values are technically measured through simulations and algorithmic analysis that evaluate the overall returns of a game over a significant number of plays or spins.

What tools are used in RTP measurement?

Tools used in RTP measurement include algorithms for simulations and analysis, mathematical models for calculating probabilities, and software that audits and verifies the randomness and fairness of game outcomes.

What should players consider about RTP?

Players should consider that RTP influences game choice and betting strategies, reflecting the average return a game will pay back to players over time.

How can RTP guide player strategy?

RTP can guide player strategy by providing insights into the potential returns of different games, enabling players to choose games with higher RTP for better winning odds, and assisting in bankroll management based on the risk and return profile of the games.

Why is RTP knowledge important for players?

RTP knowledge is important for players as it empowers them to make better gambling decisions, helping them understand the potential returns and risks associated with different casino games.

What are the overall benefits of understanding RTP?

Understanding RTP benefits players by enhancing their ability to choose games wisely, manage their bankroll effectively, and improve their overall gaming experience through informed decisions that align with their personal gaming preferences and risk tolerance.

RTP: The Numbers That Drive Online Gaming

Return to Player (RTP) serves as a fundamental cornerstone in the architecture of online gaming. It provides players with key insights into the potential returns of casino games.

This understanding of RTP is not just a numerical expression but a powerful tool that empowers players with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions.

The Impact of RTP on Player Empowerment

Understanding RTP enables players to strategically select games, balancing the excitement of gaming with a calculated approach towards risk and potential returns.

This knowledge becomes a vital asset in enhancing the overall gaming experience, ensuring that players engage with online casinos more confidently and responsibly.

Emphasizing the Benefits of RTP Awareness

RTP knowledge is instrumental in shaping a player’s approach to online gaming. It offers a clear perspective on the probabilities and potential outcomes of different games.

By comprehending RTP, players can better manage their bankroll and align their gaming strategies with their personal goals, leading to a more enjoyable and potentially rewarding gaming experience.

RTP is more than just a statistical measure; it represents the empowering force of knowledge in online gaming. Its understanding and application offer players a comprehensive, insightful, and enriching journey in online casino gambling.

Daniel White

Daniel White, based in London, UK, serves as the dynamic Editor-in-Chief at With a sharp eye for detail and a deep understanding of the online casino industry, Daniel specializes in RTP analytics and player-focused content. His leadership has transformed the site into a go-to resource for players seeking the most rewarding online gaming experiences in Europe and beyond.