What, no RTP Rates on This Site?
On this site you won’t find that we’ve listed any Return to Player Percentages. Too many other sites show this as if they are a good gauge as too how successful you’ll be at a casino. Well this is not really the case. In fact these numbers are very misleading and here’s why…
There is surely no more revered a figure among regular slot players than the all-important Return to Player Rate (RTP). This is the supposed vital number that tells you what your real chances of winning are on a slot. But is it really as simple as that?
Theoretically, you would think so. Many players like to check this figure, which is normally given as a percentage. It is intended to give a guide as to how much money the game will pay out in winnings (i.e. returned to the player) as a proportion of the money paid in. If a slot has an RTP rate of 96% for example, that means (in theory) that 96% of the money staked on the game will be returned in winnings. This leaves a 4% profit margin for the “house” (casino). And a game with an RTP of 96% must be a better bet than one paying out 93%? Well you would think so, but it may not be as simple as that…
The first thing to remember is that any RTP figure is an average. If it wasn’t, you would know that if you put in £100, you would definitely get £96 back. Not much of a thrill or a gamble there. In reality, the percentage quoted is a long term return to player rate: if you were to play for a million spins, then you could be pretty sure that you would get something like 96% of your stake money back.
But of course in the real world, no-one plays that much. In reality, most players play much less. And gaming companies have the data (closely guarded of course) that tells them how much time, and how many spins, the average player will continue playing.
For example, we could invent a theoretical machine with an RTP of 100%, but you would be mad to play it. We could introduce a machine which, say, paid out a million coins, but only on one in a million spins. But boy it would be a boring game to play. Not only that, but almost every single player would win nothing. The chances are they would give up and instead of a theoretical RTP of 100%, in effect the machine would in reality pay out 0%. What you really need to know is the probability of every possible pay out on the pay table. This information does exist, but it is a closely guarded secret. Every machine (or online slot) has a table of probabilities called the Paytable and Reel Strips (PARS). Over time, the occasional titbit of information has slipped through the net, revealing some of the possible secrets of the game.
What seems to be happening is that win probabilities are arranged so that there are lots of little wins to keep short term interest high. Then there are a few mid-range wins to make it worth the while of the longer term player to keep spinning. But the chances of winning the jackpot are relatively tiny: so much so that the vast majority of players will give up long before winning one. Even the determined gamer who continues to play on will probably win a few middle range prizes but nothing more. Eventually, he will give up with frustration or boredom, or having run out of coins. Plus of course, even if the very occasional player does get lucky and win big, this can be turned into a marketing ploy to encourage more players. “Look, one lucky player won £xxx,000 on Superslots last week!”
The bottom line is, different slots have a different probability of a maximum pay out, but without knowing the individual odds of getting the jackpot, there is no way you can tell which the best option is. The RTP is too general a figure to tell you this information. A 96% RTP game may pay out more than a 93% game in theory, but in the real world, for most players, it may not! Indeed, a disproportionately large potential (but unlikely) jackpot may well be bumping up the RTP figure of the more generous 96% game, making it unrealistically high when played by a typical player, who would be better off sticking to the 93% game.
With online slots, the situation is further complicated by exciting looking bonus rounds and special features. Again, it seems likely that players are encouraged to keep playing until they reach these extra rounds, resulting in more mid-range wins, encouraging further play… Then there is the increasing use of the “Super Bet” style option, where you can opt to increase the number of special symbols on your reels (at a price) to increase your chances of winning. All these extras make it ever more complicated and difficult for the player to discern which are the most potentially profitable games to play.
So, in the end, it is probably best to stick with the games you enjoy playing most. Playing slots is supposed to be fun after all. It’s an entertainment, a recreational past time. The published RTP figures can be used as a guide, but no more than that. Ultimately, it’s probably best to accept that the casino or website probably always will have the upper hand, after all.
The History of Slots
So now that we’ve covered the RTP and how it works, lets have a little look into the history of slots, and specifically those online to find out how this huge industry has really taken off.
The humble slot machine has come a long way. From its origins as a simple mechanical device built for the amusement of Americans little over a hundred years ago, it has evolved into a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry. As well as this phenomenal growth, the entire design of the machine has evolved: the original concept of mechanical reels lives on, but the focus is now on computer technology and virtual games, rather than real world casinos.
The very first slot machine is generally accepted to have been introduced in 1891 in New York. This was a gambling machine which would have looked a bit like the one armed bandits still seen in amusement arcades in seaside resorts across the UK. Each pull of the lever cost the eager American a nickel. This would cause the five mechanical drums to revolve. The reels on these drums contained different playing card values, with the idea being to obtain a winning combination. Prizes were awarded according to similar rules as getting a good hand at poker.
In those days, there was no pleasing tinkle of coins for winning players. There was no mechanism for returning cash, so lucky punters were generally rewarded with whatever the machine’s operator had to offer. In a typical bar, prizes would have been beer or cigars. The scales were, as ever, tipped in favour of the House by the fact that the five reels contained only 50 cards, reducing the chances of getting a big win. But the practicalities of inventing a machine which could automatically pay out from the countless different winning Poker combinations proved insurmountable.
Nevertheless, the concept proved very popular, with new designs spreading quickly. Crucially, on the other side of the continent in San Francisco, Charles Fey devised a similar machine which replaced all these card values with some more simple symbols, some of which live on as symbols on many machines to this day, like the horseshoe and the bell. The link to playing cards was maintained by the use of symbols for diamonds, heart and spades. These machines were named the Liberty Bell, after the bell symbol on the reels.
But the real advance was that the simplicity of the new symbols meant that Fey could develop a machine which paid out automatically. With a jackpot of just 50 cents, no-one got rich quick, but the new game was a huge success. By the turn of the century, Fey’s own design had been copied by several competitors, and the machine was installed in bars, bowling alleys and various houses of ill repute across the land. This despite increasing attempts by the authorities to ban or restrict their use.
It was around this time that the traditional link to fruit arose. This is why slot machines are still colloquially referred to as “fruit machines” in the UK to this day. Flavoured chewing gum was often given as a prize by these early machines, and the different flavours, such as water melon and the cherry were often used as symbols. The still popular “BAR” sign was also introduced at this time, part of the logo of the Bell Fruit Gum Company. This payment of food prizes was a frequently used attempt to try to get round the anti-gambling legal restrictions put on these machines by many American states.
This one-armed bandit style mechanism remained the predominant design in slots for around seventy years. It was not until the early 1960s that new technologies began to revolutionise the slot machine. A new electro-mechanical design was popularised by the US manufacturer Bally. Money Honey featured an automatic pay out system, and the use of electronics meant that the mechanical arm could be replaced by the more modern buttons we see on real world machines today.
Las Vegas casinos were the first to see the next development in slot technology around ten years later, when the Fortune Coin Company’s introduced its video slot machine. This seems very simple by modern standards, featuring some very basic computing power (this was the mid-70s after all), with a pretty obvious colour TV monitor on top. But it was this machine that really enabled the slot to develop into the multi-billion dollar industry it represents today.
The use of virtual computer technology rather than mechanical reels enabled all sorts of new features to be developed. The development of integrated circuits in the 1980s enabled the introduction of further new innovations, such as extra bonus screens with additional themes and games. Designs became ever more imaginative and exciting with more detailed and realistic graphics.
Today of course, players can play slot machines from the comfort of their own homes, or even on the move using their smart phones. Online slots were introduced barely twenty years ago in the late 1990s, and with modern day superfast broadband and Wi-Fi, there is no need for James Bond to don his tuxedo and order his favourite cocktail from a luxury casino if he is after a crafty spin. He could satisfy his gaming desires with his customised smart watch from Q branch, whilst communicating with his nemesis via an encrypted chat room.
All this technology, plus the gradual relaxation of gambling restrictions has led to phenomenal growth in the playing of slots in the United Kingdom, both in the real world and online. Overall online casino revenue has increased from less than £5 billion in 2011 to over £7 billion in 2015 – an increase of around 50% in just four years. When you add on the money spent on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in high street bookmakers across the land, it’s clear that this is big business indeed.
The growth in online gaming has been even more phenomenal. In 2010, £86m was spent on online slots in the UK. By 2014 (the latest year for which official figures are publicly available) this had more than quadrupled to over £366m. Given that subsequent years have seen the even more rapid rise of smartphone and tablet play, it is likely that the billion pound mark will soon be reached, if it has not already been surpassed.
Indeed, play on mobiles and tablets has now overtaken old style desktop PC gaming. This exponential growth has no doubt been fuelled by the ability to pay by phone bill, ridding the busy “on the go” player of the need to register their personal financial details before spinning the reels.
The slot machine remains a favourite with gamers across the world. In the United Kingdom, there is no doubt that the relaxation of legislation since 2005 has been a major contributor to the amazing rise in the popularity of the slot machine. Future governments may well not be so relaxed about gaming in all its forms. In fact changes are already starting to be made by governments. There is strict control over the advertising of gambling campaigns. Shortly, a new tax will be introduced on deposit bonuses. This could well mean the end of the large deposit bonus as has been seen in the past. Could these changes mean the beginning of the end for the humble slot machine? It seems unlikely with them proving so popular; in fact it means that the casual casino player is likely to be in a better position through decreased wagering requirements. Which can only mean one positive outcome, online slots players will be able to withdraw their winnings far easier in the future.
What to look out for when choosing a new casino site
There are a number of key elements that online and mobile slots players should look out for. These are essentially basic fundamentals and a simple guide to spot whether a site is a good one or one to avoid.
- The wagering requirements. One to often catch out new casino players. Now heavily advertised because of the strict gambling laws, gone are the days when these could be tucked away in the terms and conditions that no one ever read. Be sure to know the wagering requirements and also watch out for what games contribute towards that requirement. Not every game on a slots site will chip away at the requirement. Also watch out for split requirements – this is a crafty new tactic and should be carefully examined. But all bonuses are clearly explained so be sure to carefully read the requirements.
- The minimum withdrawal and deposit amounts. It may seem simple, but is often over looked. There is no good having a minimum withdrawal amount of £30 if you first of all need to have deposited a minimum of £50. This is also an area of the terms and conditions that is not easy to find. Often tucked away and not as prominent as the wagering requirements, its just as important. You will need to have a look at the terms and conditions to find these numbers. All of our reviews will advise you of these conditions if you’re not sure.
- Where does the casino hold its license? This is pretty important. To have a license with the UK Gambling Commission the gaming license will need to have been issued in a ‘whitelisted’ territory. This means the casino complies with all the necessary requirements as laid out by the gambling commission, which means the chance of being mislead on an offer or withdrawal limit is greatly reduced. The opposite to this are casinos that are ‘blacklisted’ and are definitely ones to be wary of. All of the reviews will advise if the casino is whitelisted or blacklisted if you are unsure.