What is RTP and why should newbie slots players know about it?

What is RTP (Return to Player) and why should new slots players know about it?

So you’re planning a weekend junket to Vegas and you’re thinking you might try your hand at the slot machines. Before you do that you need to know about RTP (Return to Player)!

I’m Lana Godwin, and I’ve been spinning the reels and exploring casinos worldwide for over two decades. Today, I’m gonna shed some light on this very important aspect of slot machine gameplay: RTP, or Return to Player. Let’s get started.

The basics – what is RTP?

RTP, or Return to Player, is a percentage that represents the average amount of money a slot machine is expected to return to players over time. It’s important to understand that RTP is a long-term statistical average, not a guarantee of short-term results. For example, if a slot machine has an RTP of 95%, it means that, on average, players can expect to receive $0.95 for every $1 wagered over an extended period.

How long is that extended period? The answer is confusing. Each spin on a slot machine is independent, we are told that many times. But when it comes to ‘statistics’ one machine will have a different RTP than another. Is it hours or spins? The statistical calculations used to determine RTP take into account a significant number of spins to provide an average return over time. This means that the more spins you make, the closer your results are expected to align with the machine’s specified RTP percentage. Over the short term, these machines can be just as random as any others.

The Significance of RTP

RTP plays a crucial role in determining the expected return for players. It provides insights into the overall fairness of casino games and helps players make informed decisions. Additionally, RTP influences the house edge, which is the mathematical advantage that the casino holds over players.

When selecting a slot machine to play, you can look for machines with high RTP percentages, as they statistically provide better chances of winning.

How RTP is Calculated and who sets it for each machine?

The theoretical RTP (Return to Player) percentage for a slot machine is typically determined by the game developer or the software provider that creates the slot game. During the initial stages of developing a slot machine game, the game designer determines the game’s mechanics, features, and overall structure. This includes deciding on the number of reels, paylines, symbols, bonus rounds, and other gameplay elements.

Once the game design is in place, the software developers use mathematical calculations to determine the probabilities of various outcomes. They calculate the expected frequency of wins, payouts for different symbol combinations, and the overall expected return to players.

After setting the RTP, the slot machine undergoes thorough testing and certification by independent testing laboratories. These testing bodies ensure that the game meets industry standards of fairness and that the declared RTP is accurate. Different jurisdictions may have specific regulations regarding the minimum RTP percentage for slot machines. Game developers must ensure compliance with these regulations when setting the RTP. Reputable testing labs certify and verify the accuracy of RTP calculations. This ensures that the information provided by game developers and casinos is reliable and transparent

Obviously, setting the RTP has to involve striking a balance between player enjoyment and the economic viability of the game. The RTP should provide a fair and entertaining experience for players while allowing the casino or operator to generate revenue.

RTP and Volatility

Ah, volatility! This is an essential aspect of slot machines that can greatly affect your gameplay experience. Volatility refers to the level of risk and potential rewards associated with a particular game. While RTP represents the long-term average, volatility determines the short-term fluctuations and excitement you may encounter. Higher volatility can mean bigger wins but with less frequent payouts, while lower volatility offers more consistent but smaller wins. It’s all about finding the right balance that suits your preferences and playing style.

Calculating volatility in slot machines typically requires access to detailed information about the game’s paytable, probabilities, and payout distribution. Of course, the volatility of a slot machine is not directly provided by the game developer or casino but needs to be estimated using various methods including statistical analysis and paytable analysis. But that’s a topic for a whole new article!

Finding and Understanding RTP Information

It’s not always easy to find machine RTP information. Online casinos sometimes provide RTP data for their machines but there’s not always regulation requiring this, depending on the jursidiction. Land-based machines, as well, are not required to publish this data but if you know what casino you’re planning to visit, you can try to find the data on their website. Look for sections like “Gaming Information” or “Slot Machine Details” that may include RTP information.

In some jurisdictions, gaming regulatory bodies require casinos to provide information on the RTP of their slot machines. These regulators may have public databases or websites where you can access this information. Check the websites of the gaming authorities or regulatory bodies in your region for any available data.

Various online resources, forums, and communities dedicated to gambling may compile and share RTP data for different land-based slot machines. These sources often rely on player reports and experiences, so the information may not always be comprehensive or up to date. We plan do an article in future that will list some of these resources.

What about on the machine itself? Certain gaming jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, require that land-based slot machines display the RTP percentage. In these cases, you might find a sticker or a small plaque on the machine indicating the RTP. The displayed information could include the specific RTP percentage or a range of percentages for the particular game or slot machine.

Why wouldn’t I play only on machines with high RTP?

This is a good question and one we discussed in an earlier article discussing Slot Machine Myths. To recap:

  • Slot machines operate based on short-term variance, meaning that outcomes can deviate significantly from the long-term average in the short term. Even on a high RTP machine, players can experience periods of both winning and losing streaks.
  • Machines with higher RTP percentages may require higher bets or have higher denominations.
  • In a busy casino, machines with high RTP percentages might be in high demand and so crowded and unavailable.
  • Casinos often have a variety of slot machines with different RTP percentages, so it may not always be possible to find a machine with the highest RTP at your desired betting range.

RTP and Responsible Gambling

Responsible gambling is a fundamental aspect of enjoying the casino experience. While RTP can give you insights into expected returns, it’s crucial to remember that it does not guarantee individual results in the short term. The outcome of each spin is determined by random number generators (RNGs), ensuring fairness and unpredictability. Set realistic expectations, establish a gambling budget, and always gamble within your means to maintain a healthy and enjoyable gaming experience.

RTP Myths and Misconceptions

There are many myths and misconceptions around RTP. For example, you might think a machine that has been played constantly for an hour might be ‘hot’ and more likely to give a payout. My sister will watch a machine carefully if she sees someone playing it for an extended period of time. As soon as that person gets ups she’ll sit down and continue, insisting the machine is ready to give a big win.

Some people believe that casinos can manipulate RTP percentages to their advantage. Rest assured, reputable casinos and game developers adhere to strict regulations, ensuring fair and transparent gameplay. Another myth is that players can influence or predict outcomes based on RTP. Remember, RNGs make every spin independent, eliminating any patterns or predictability.


I hope I’ve been able to help you understand RTP a bit better. By knowing the RTP of a slot machine, you can make informed decisions and manage your expectations. Remember to balance RTP considerations with other factors, such as personal preferences, gameplay features, and overall entertainment value. And may your future casino adventures be filled with excitement and unforgettable moments!

Happy spinning and best of luck on your slot machine journey!

-Lana Godwin, slots fan