Defining the Slot Machine Term Return to Player (RTP)

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Often when talking about slot machines, the term Return to Player, or RTP, will come up. If you’re not sure what that means, we’re here to help!

Return to Player is an industry term for what a slot is expected to pay back, over the long term, as a percentage of what’s taken in. For instance, if a slot has a Return to Player of 90 percent, in the long term, for every $100 that is put in, $90 will be paid back.

Now, Return to Player is a long term measure, not a short term one, so players should not expect to get $90 back each time they put $100 into a machine. In a single session, a player could win a massive jackpot or lose their butts – there’s a variety of outcomes machines are designed to offer, and that’s why the Return to Player is a long-term result.

Return to Player is calculated by determining the total payout of all the various outcomes possible in a game, and dividing it by the amount that would be wagered to get those payouts. So, if there are 1 million potential outcomes, $1 was wagered to achieve each, and the total payout for those 1 million outcomes was $900,000, that would be a 90 percent RTP ($900,000/$1,000,000).

It’s important to know that slot machine games are designed with multiple Return to Player options. Usually slot makers will offer casinos about a half dozen RTP options, generally within a range of 85 to 98 percent, and casinos can then select which option they wish to install, as long as that option also meets local regulation requirements like minimum or even maximum RTP requirements.

As players, we will not get to see those settings, at least in physical casino in the United States (some jurisdictions outside the US do show RTP information within the pay tables). And online, many games also do show the payback. 

That doesn’t mean the one in your casino will share that option, though, so it’s unlikely (unless posted on the machine, something which happens on occasion) that we as players will know what a particular machine in a particular casino is set to pay out as a percentage over time.


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