What is Return to Player?

If you are a regular pokies player, you’ve probably heard of something called the ‘Return to Player Percentage’. It is something often talked about but not always well understood. It is important to clarify what Return to Player Percentage is, as misunderstandings can lead to problem gambling.

By law, every poker machine in Australia must return a minimum percentage to the player. This percentage varies by state and territory. In NSW the minimum RTP is 87%, though many machines are programmed to return a higher amount. 87% or higher, that’s great right? Well it is if 87% of the money put into the machine is returned to the player. Sadly this is NOT the case. Return to Player Percentage is not calculated in terms of MONEY put in, but rather CREDITS bet. There is a big difference between the two, let me show you how it works.

In a typical session, you can expect to get a number of small wins along the way. The credits from these wins are used to bet more and prolong the session. Essentially there is a recycling of credits happening. What that means is the amount of credits bet during a session is usually much greater than the amount of money inserted into the machine. The longer you play, the more credits you’ll cycle through. This has a dramatic effect on your bottom line. Let me demonstrate with an example.

Let’s say you put $100 into a machine and bet $1 a spin. You can easily play through 1000 spins in two hours (assuming 10 spins a minute and some short breaks). The amount of credits you’ve bet during that session is 1,000 x $1 = $1,000. Let’s assume this machine returned 90% of credits bet in the session, slightly higher than the minimum 87% required. Therefore it returned $900 worth of credits to you (90% x $1,000 = $900). How much MONEY did you end up with at the end of the session? Well you bet $1000 worth of credits, but the machine only returned $900, so you are down by $100 in the end. Since you put in $100 to start with, you’ll walk with nothing.

It is very important to understand how the Return to Player Percentage actually works, as it has a big influence on players’ expectations of what they can take away at the end of a session. In reality only 25-30% of money put into machines are actually cashed out. The longer you play for, the less you can expect to take out at the end of the session. This is why people who play for too long on the pokies often walk away with nothing.

If you think you may have a problem with poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak with a gambling counsellor. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

The Gambling Help website has a range of free resources and self-help tools available to download or order, as well as new community support forums where you can share your experiences and hear from others who are in similar situations. Visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/forum to join the conversation.

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