Return to Player - the fallacy that this is a "responsible" gambling tool

Posted On: 
2nd August 2017

Derek Webb, Campaign for Fairer Gambling founder, gets into detail on understanding gambling concepts

Credit: 
PA Images

The “responsible” gambling establishment asserts that return-to-player (RTP) is valuable information in a responsible gambling agenda, without providing any detailed explanation of functionality.

Given a choice between a 99% RTP and a 50% RTP, regular gamblers will choose the 99% RTP, unless the 50% RTP is tied to a life-changing long-shot such as the National Lottery Draw.

Even with unawareness of RTP, those engaging most frequently will logically gravitate towards activities with the highest RTP. The highest RTP is in casino table games, with high frequency wagers and high staking capability leading to an understanding that these are the most addictive gambling content.

The advent of electronic gaming machines (EGMs), remote gambling and use of casino table game content in these formats has resulted in FOBTs, which are EGMs with casino table game content. As EGMs are the most addictive gambling platform, FOBT roulette is now the most addictive form of gambling.

The survival of low RTP gambling, such as accumulator style wagering on horseracing or sports betting, demonstrates natural biases towards different forms of gambling, showing that gambling is not just one homogenous activity of interchangeable options.

Gamblers perceiving themselves to be “educated” will have a propensity to become more involved at the highest RTP activity. Las Vegas casinos are happy to sell “Best Blackjack Strategy” information in their gift shops to encourage them.

As a table game creator, I designed games that could outperform existing competing table games. This involved providing the reality that the results would be better for the operator and the perception that the gambler was getting a better deal than on comparable games.

My games offered a higher RTP than comparative games, encouraging greater engagement through higher stakes, longer duration and more frequent participation. Three Card Poker™ and 21+3™ are respectively the most successful new proprietary table game and side bet table game ever.  

My designs steered the demographic playing this game type closer to addictive behavior. However, my experience, observations and opinion is that my new games are not as addictive as traditional table games.  Therefore, players moving to those games from traditional table games, or playing one as their first casino table game, could be in less danger of adopting disordered gambling.

At the same time that Three Card Poker™ was introduced in UK casinos, an electronic progressive jackpot with a low RTP was being added to the rival game, Casino Stud.  Despite this, Three Card Poker™ soon outperformed the established Casino Stud, resulting in nearly all Casino Stud tables being removed.  

The UK casino operator making the greatest over-commitment to the Casino Stud jackpot was Gala Coral which purchased the equipment. They held an event with a great fanfare introducing the jackpot to casino managers, with the main man Neil Goulden proclaiming this "game-changing" system. Mr. Goulden made the mistake of thinking that physical equipment was more valuable than appropriate use of intellectual property, through incorrectly thinking that regular gamblers are motivated by greed.

It is a common fallacy of non-gamblers to attribute character flaws such as "greed" to gamblers. Mr. Goulden went on to become Chair of the bookies’ trade body, the ABB, whilst also being Chair of the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT), now rebranded as GambleAware. Whilst Chair for both bodies, he was also found to be lobbying in favor of FOBTs.

It is only through a lack of regulatory oversight that a "responsible" gambling body, such as the RGT, could have a Chair who does not understand gambling concepts. Educating gamblers on RTP, as it is currently explained, is likely to result in gamblers moving towards more addictive gambling. Sadly, those advocating "responsible" gambling seem to choose to ignore the obvious and endorse the fallacy.