Myths vs. Reality

Do Online Casinos Offer the Same Payback as Physical Ones?

Payback Percentage screen
Written by Joshua

Many online social and commercial casinos have some of the same games as their physical casino counterparts. Some players have asked – when online casinos report the game’s payback, does that mean the game will pay the same in a casino?

STATUS: In most cases, no, but there may be occasional exceptions.

Online commercial casinos don’t have the same overhead as physical ones, from maintaining physical buildings to having a 24/7 staff to oversee a variety of functions required at a casino. While there is definitely some overhead, it’s lower.

That means the casino can offer a higher payback percentage and still generate a certain level of profit off those operations.

Similarly, most social casinos don’t have the same structure when it comes to how they make money – they sell virtual currency and make their money off of that, since there’s no cash out mechanism of the coins purchased. (There are exceptions for those that have a sweepstakes model, but then you can just point back to the benefits of a commercial casino model.)

Double Down Casino Cleopatra payback information

Let’s take Double Down Casino, owned by IGT. You’ll find classic IGT games like Cleopatra in the library of games available. In this case they list Cleopatra as having a theoretical expected payback of between 95.06% and 96.52%.

If you review physical casino payback information, the average casino pays less than that, and you won’t get paybacks that high unless you’re on high denomination. As such, it’s safe to presume the paybacks you’ll see on a social casino like Double Down are probably better than the game you’ll play at a penny denomination in a physical casino.

It is possible, or even likely, that the social casino is using the loosest math model designed for a given game. As described here before, most slots are designed with about a half dozen payback options. One of the loosest options could be the basis for this version of the online game.

Alternatively, many slot developers are developing online variations of their games for play on various commercial casinos. As we mentioned upfront, there’s plenty of indications that commercial online casinos offer better payback than their physical counterparts.

One is that some games, in some markets, have their payback shared, just like it is for physical casinos. You’ll see paybacks more like Cleopatra above than as reported as a physical casino.

For another, you can look at the comp programs of physical casinos vs. their commercial counterparts. For instance, Caesars Rewards gives you a tier credit for every $5 wagered on a slot machine at a physical casino, but it takes $10 wagered on a slot per tier credit online.

The halving of earning tier credits is because it takes more online wagering to accomplish the same Average Daily Theoretical loss amount as in person.

Of course, higher paybacks means there’s a better chance of winning because the odds aren’t tilted as much against you and short term variance may make it easier to overcome losses. Or, more likely, your money will stretch longer (on average, in the long term, twice as long comparing a penny slot to an online counterpart).

So, the data for online social or commercial casinos won’t help you get a better sense of payouts for the machines in a casino. But if you’re in a market that allows for online gaming, you can at least use it to be better educated about how the online markets work.

About the author

Joshua

My name is Joshua, and I’m a 30-something who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, games that give you a potential edge, casino promotions and systems and how you can get the most out of it.

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