A Complete Guide To Online Slots

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Over a century after the first slot machine was created in San Francisco, the world has seen its popularity pivot, as with many things, to the digital realm. This comes as no surprise, particularly when you consider that slots account for anywhere from 65% to 80% of a casino’s total income. 

As such, a simple search for the top UK slot sites will quickly provide you with a multitude of options to enjoy some of the best titles available out there. Online slots have become so popular, in fact, that a sizeable number of people now even watch live streams.

In this article, you’ll get a rundown of the gaming genre, why it’s so popular, and the basics of what you need to know before playing.  


Benefits of playing online slots

There’s an undeniable convenience to being able to do something online. And playing slots is no different. Below are some of the pros of playing online.

  • Play whenever you want

Accessibility is the main driver for online slots’ increasing popularity. Whether you’re just chilling at home or looking to kill some time while on the train, all you need to do is pull out your laptop or mobile device and you’re ready to play. And because many of the companies responsible for on-site slot machines also release the same game software online, the experience can be just as engaging. 

  • Higher return to player (RTP)

According to California Business Journal, most online slots offer a 96% RTP. This means that for every USD$100 played, players can expect to get back around USD$96. In contrast, land-based slots reportedly only have around 85% to 90% RTP. You can typically find an online slot’s RTP percentage on the last page of its payout pages.  

  • More game options

Even the biggest casinos have a limited number of games on offer. Sans space constraints, you have access to thousands of unique online slots. Just search for your preferred game and you’ll be playing in seconds.  

  • More free bonuses 

To lure more players in, online slots regularly offer free spins and deposit bonuses. Additionally, if you don’t fancy spending your hard-earned cash just to pass the time, you can just opt for free play. You won’t win any cash either, but at least you get to scratch that itch. 

  • Larger jackpots and faster payments

Online progressive slots (more on this later), due to its larger network, typically reach larger jackpots than land-based slots. And if lady luck blesses you like that, a lot of platforms will allow you to transfer the amount to your account right away. Conversely, when you hit the jackpot on offline slots, your winnings usually come in deferred payments. 


How online slots work

Online slots work similarly to modern video slots with a random number generator (RNG) system. The numbers are selected and then fed to computer with corresponding symbols on the reels. The online slots then reward a combination of three or more identical symbols with a payout. 

To ensure that the results are indeed random, the games are tested by independent testing labs, which also measure the game’s RTP percentage – or the theoretical payout in the long-term. 

Slots terminology guide

To help get you better acquainted, here are some of the most common terms you’ll encounter when you start playing online slots.

  • Slot symbols

While a plethora of online slots are released regularly with unique features and bonus symbols, they come with similar types of symbols to classic slot machines. Typically, the lowest payout valued symbols are represented by high-card symbols (kings, queens, jacks, 10s, and aces), while higher-paying symbols depend on the game theme. 

Additionally, there are bonus symbols (often referred to as wilds/jokers) that can be used to replace standard symbols, thereby increasing the chances of having a winning combination. There are also scatter symbols, which can either award payouts from any position or bonuses such as free spins. 

  • Paylines

The most common slots feature three reels with a single payline running from left to right. Modern slots, however, can feature anywhere from five to seven reels, which increases the paylines by up to 100 more. It does so by offering paylines that run horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. This results in up to 3,000 more ways to get paid. 

  • Paytables

Before jumping on an online slot, it’s important to take the time to study its paytable to learn what you need to know about a particular game. A paytable will let you know, for example, if a slot features wilds, scatters, multipliers, and other bonus features. Additionally, it’s where you’ll find how payouts are awarded and what the RTP is. 

Types of Online Slots

Below are the most common types of online slots you can find today. 

  • Classic slots

As the name suggests, these types of games most closely resemble some of the earliest slot machines created, with their single reel-single payline configuration.  

  • Video slots

Technically, video slots were first introduced in the 1970s and stood as an evolutionary leap in slot gaming technology. “Virtual slots” would be the more apt term for the confluence of highly-detailed graphics displays, operating systems, and the internet. They allowed game developers to integrate more innovative features to standard spins and paylines. 

Equally important, the constant evolution of gaming technologies has birthed a truly immersive experience that made online slots more appealing to the general population, leading to the explosive growth it enjoys today. 

  • Network progressive slots

This type of slot was born from the idea that contributions from multiple slots could be linked and combined to a total prize pool that would be a more attractive pot for players. Network progressive slots are funded by taking a small percentage from every wager made on linked slots. This ensures that the prize pool increases until someone wins the jackpot. Once that happens, the prize pool would be reset to start growing again. 

  • Branded slots

As you might surmise, these slots are ones created with a licensing agreement between slot developers and titles from TV shows, movies, and iconic events. This marketing ploy is designed to attach a popular character or video game to an online slot, turning pedestrian slots players into regulars. 


Whether you’re a seasoned slots player in casinos or just someone who enjoys fiddling around with games, online slots have become an incredibly attractive means to pass the time and/or win serious cash. But if you’re looking to get serious with testing your luck, do your research to be as informed as you can be coming in. 


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