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Everything You Need to Know About Online Slots

When you think of spending your free time in Canada, what comes to mind? If you’re a hyperactive person with lots of hobbies, you might embark on a journey to explore new terrain in your area. But what about people like us who want to sit back and relax?

Well, from what we can tell, playing games at an online casino could be fun. And when it comes to casino games, there are no bigger genres than slots. On paper, there’s not much that you can control in the game as they’re “games of pure chance”. However, understanding the mechanics can help you minimize losses and enjoy your time at legit online casinos in Canada a little more.

This is our guide to casino online slots where we’re going to cover everything, starting with the history of the games. Then, we’re going to explore how online slots came about and how they took over the online gambling paradigm.  

Slots Games: The Evolution

If you look into the history of slot games, 2 entities come up over and over again. One of them is Charles Fey from California. And the other one is Sittman and Pitt,  a business in New York.

The modern 5-reel slots we can play at both online and offline casinos can apparently be traced back to the machine Sittman and Pitt developed way back in 1891. According to legends, it had 5 drums with 50 playing cards. Every time you spin the drums, you get a combination of the cards and your winnings are calculated based on that.

As for Charles Fey, he’s believed to be the forefather of slot machines. His invention arguably predates Sittman and Pitt. In his version of the slot machine, there were 3 reels instead of the drums.

The machine was called the Liberty Bell and it housed symbols like the Liberty Bell, diamonds, horseshoes, hearts, and spades. Considering the ongoing cowboy culture during that time, the symbols make all the sense.

Over the next 20 years, the machine got massive popularity all over the US. Public gathering places like bars, restaurants, and clubs installed these machines to offer additional value to the customers.

Online Slots: The Current Behemoth

After the initial introduction of slot machines, there was a countrywide ban on these machines that lasted for decades. The ban started to lift in the 1960s. Up until this point, the machines were completely mechanical. 1963 marks the year for the very first electromechanical slot developed by Bally. From what we can tell, it was the beginning of a new era.

The “video slot” that we know today was first introduced in 1976! Over the next decade, the paradigm went through a lot of changes. Finally, in 1994, Microgaming introduced the concept of online gambling. Needless to say, that gave birth to the idea of online slots in the first place.

The first few casinos had a limited selection of slots, mostly adapted from 3-reel classic themed machines. Only a few years after online casinos were introduced, software providers started to pop up all over the world with new titles, introducing new themes.

Some of the forerunners in the software provider are NetEnt (known as Net Entertainment back in the day), Playtech, and Play’n Go.

The biggest benefit of developing online slots over physical slots is that there are no limitations on how many games there can be and how many themes the developers want to use. This resulted in the online slots category becoming a behemoth of current times. Although it’s not possible to put a pin on the exact number, it’s well over 15,000 at this point!

The veteran providers are now more focused on partnering with independent studios to encourage new developers. NetEnt, Microgaming, Playtech, and Evolution Gaming are all doing the same thing. Evolution is undoubtedly leading the race by acquiring studios left and right!

How Do Online Slots Work?

There are a lot of variables at play when you’re playing online slots, whether to wager your casino online bonus or with real money. However, we can summarize how the game works in a few sentences.

You start with choosing a bet value by manipulating the number of active paylines, coin values, and the number of coins for each line. If it’s a fixed payline title, it’s as easy as selecting the bet. Then, you press the “Spin” button to initiate the spin. Once all the reels stop, you get paid if you hit any of the paylines.

This is the basic working of online slots. At least, for the games that run on the payline logic. We have a section coming up on different types of game mechanics so stay tuned for that.

Bonuses You Can Use with Online Slots

We know for a fact that you’re very excited about the bonuses at online casinos. While free spins are the only type of bonus that you can directly use on slots, pretty much all casino bonuses can be used on these games. “How”, you ask? Let’s find out!

Cash Bonuses/Deposit Match Bonuses

When you receive a cash bonus, either as a welcome bonus or as an ongoing bonus, you can usually use it for all kinds of games. Sure, the wagering contribution for each type is different but slots always contribute 100% of your bet.

Also, when you use the bonus funds to play online slots, you can quickly rack up your bankroll. It’s especially true if you’re playing a high RTP low volatility slot. Not familiar with these characteristics? Don’t worry because we’ll explain them to you very soon.

No Deposit Bonuses

A no deposit bonus can be a cash deposit or free spins. Whatever the case is, online slots are always open to play with this bonus. If you get a cash bonus right after you sign up, you can start playing the games right away, even before a deposit!

And if you get no deposit free spins, it works in the same way. You use the free spins for the specified game before you make a real money deposit. Keep in mind that wagering requirements for no deposit bonuses tend to be higher than normal.

Cashback Bonuses

Cashbacks are excellent rewards, no matter what industry you’re looking at. In an online casino, cashback bonuses are usually credited against your real money losses. The money you get back from the cashback, you can use to play online slots.

What we like most about these bonuses is that there are no game restrictions or wagering requirements. It means the entire game library is open to you.

Free Spins

The most popular type of casino online bonus. At least, for players who prefer online slots over other games. The “spin” factor only applies to slots games. So, this bonus is exclusive to online slots.

Usually, players in Canada get a fixed number of spins to play on selected slots. When you open the games, you’ll get the option to use the free spins. From what we’ve seen, free spins bonuses are very short-lived, around 24 to 48 hours.

Features of Online Slots that Matter the Most

We’ve finally reached the meat of the content. Understanding the core features of online slot games will change how you look at them. At the same time, you’ll be able to enjoy the games more. And if you master the art of analyzing the features, you may as well put a leash on your losses!


Well, the paytable of an online slot is not a feature. Rather, it’s a virtual document where all the features are listed and explained. When you’re playing a game, look for the “i” button. Some games may use “?” or directly include a “Paytable” button on the game interface.

This section of the game interface contains all the information you need on the game. It includes all the symbols and their payout potentials, purpose and use of the special symbols, explanation of the bonus rounds, volatility rating, RTP rating, minimum & maximum bet values, and maximum winning potential.

We have a fun task for you. After you’re done reading this section, open an online slot from our recommended list and open the paytable. See if you can interpret all the data you come across!

Return to Player

On every paytable, you should find the RTP percentage of the game. Although this characteristic is mostly associated with online slots in Canada as well as in the rest of the world, every casino game has an RTP.

RTP or Return to Player is the theoretical estimation of how much of your bets you can get back. If a game has 100% RTP, it means you can expect to get all of your stakes back over time. However, we don’t see games with 100% RTP. For online slots, the average RTP is 96%.

A 96% RTP means if you wager C$100 on a game, you may win up to C$96 back. It’s “may” because slots are games of chance. There are no guarantees that it’s going to happen.


The volatility of a game refers to the risk factor. A high volatility game is riskier than a low volatility game. The risk factor is actually determined using the hit frequency of the game. If you get frequent but low payouts, that’s a low volatility game. And if you get massive payouts very rarely, that’s a high volatility game.

Thankfully, the use of paytables eliminates the need for any guesswork. Game developers mention what volatility rating the title has. As of now, there are 5 different levels. You get low volatility, low-medium volatility, medium volatility, medium-high volatility, and high volatility games.

Some operators use graphical icons to represent the volatility rating. For example, Pragmatic Play uses 5 thunder icons and colours them to let the players know what to expect.

Reels, Rows, and Grids

If you’ve encountered online slots before in Canada, you’ve definitely heard of reels. 3-reel slots, 5-reel slots, 6-reel slots, and whatnot. The reels are the vertical positions on the game that spins. As for the rows, these are the horizontal positions. When you represent the two factors simultaneously, that’s the grid.

For example, a game with 5 reels and 3 rows can be represented as a 5x3 grid slot. You can think of the rows as reel positions too as the symbols actually land on the reels and not on the rows. In a 5x3 slot, each of the reels has 3 positions where symbols can land.

Regular Symbols

You can’t dispute the fact that symbols are the heart of online slot games. It’s the symbols that create the winning combinations on a payline. When we say regular symbols, we’re referring to both high-paying and low-paying ones.

In this day and age, the majority of slots have dedicated themes. The symbols that reflect the theme of the game are usually high-paying symbols. For example, in a title with a wild west theme, the high-paying symbols could be a revolver, a holster, a salon door, a cowboy hat, and so on.

As for low-paying symbols, they’re mostly royals. A, J, Q, K, 10, and 9 are the most used royals in online slot games.

Special Symbols

As we’re labelling them as “special” symbols, it’s apparent that they have special abilities. In general, there are 2 types of special symbols for online slots. Wilds and Scatters.

If you’re familiar with how wildcards work, the same concept applies to wild symbols. A wild symbol can replace any other symbol to create a winning combination for you. If you list all the symbols in a game based on priority, wild will be in the 2nd position, right after scatters. As a result, wilds can’t replace scatter symbols.

Speaking of scatters, these are the most powerful symbols and they’re used to trigger the in-game bonus rounds. In some games, the wilds and scatters pay too! You’ll get the potential payout in the paytable.

Apart from wilds and scatters, some games may have additional special symbols like BONUS. The workings of these symbols are explained in the Paytable.

Bonus Rounds

So, you already know that bonus rounds are normally triggered with scatter symbols. For the most part, you need at least 3 scatters on all of the reels to trigger it. The most common bonus feature is free spins. You get a set number of in-game free spins. The winnings you generate from these spins are added to your winnings instantly.

Many games offer other types of bonuses like in-game jackpots, the tumble feature, the card gamble feature, and whatnot! It only supports our statement that there are no limits on how many slot games there can be and how many themes providers can use!


The discussion of paylines is a recurring one in the iGaming world. These are virtual lines on the game’s interface and they trigger when you land the appropriate symbols on these lines. Different games may have different number of paylines. If you know how to play tic-tac-toe, think of each of the ways you can win as a payline. In that sense, tic-tac-toe has 8 paylines.

As for the lines on slots, there are additional requirements such as all the symbols must land adjacently. It means if there’s a gap between the sequence, you don’t win. Unless there’s a wild in the gap that can turn the missing symbol into a paying one.

Also, the direction of the symbols matters too. The majority of the games pay from left to right. Very few games pay both ways and even fewer games pay from right to left.

Game Mechanics

You now know what the paylines are and how they work. More than 90% of games currently in circulation use the paylines algorithm. What’s the rest of the games, you ask? Well, here are some of the other slot mechanics you may come across.

-  Megaways

Developed by the Aussie provider Big Time Gaming, Megaways is one of the most popular game mechanics nowadays. In these titles, you get a range of Megaways instead of fixed paylines. Most of these games are 6 reels and up to 7 reel positions. It results in upwards of 117,649 paylines in a single spin! As time goes by, games with an even bigger number of Megaways are coming out.

-  Cluster Pays

The idea of paylines is completely eliminated from these games. Instead of following the reels and symbol positions, you need to form clusters of symbols. These games generally have a square grid like 8x8, 10x10, or some other formation. And when you get 5 or more symbols in a cluster, you get paid. Reactoonz by Play’n Go is a great example.

-  InfiniReels

In all of the game types we covered so far, we get a fixed number of reels. But what if you could play a game where the number of reels keeps growing? That’s exactly what InifiReels are. Every time you win, the number of reels will increase and it’ll keep increasing as long as you keep winning. Once you lose, the game will reset back to its original form.

Audio & Visual

Last but not least, we believe the visuals matter a lot for online slots. As you’re restricted to the screen instead of the real atmosphere, the developers need to dial up the intensity. We now have thousands of slot games utilizing hundreds of themes.

The best way to get the games you enjoy the most is to play them in the demo mode first. Or, you can go for the ones we’re about to discuss in the next section.

Best Online Slots to Use the Bonuses

After such an elaborate discussion on what online slots are and how they work, it only makes sense for us to rank our favourite titles. As it happens, these are also widely used by casino operators for bonus usage.

Rich Wilde and Book of Dead by Play’n Go

If you sign up for an online casino in Canada that offers free spins on signup or as part of the welcome bonuses, chances are Book of Dead is the game it wants you to play. The characteristic of this game makes it more enjoyable to play with free spins.

If you haven’t played it yet, it’s an Egyptian theme game with Rich Wilde as the main protagonist. You get ancient Egyptian symbols too.

Gonzo’s Quest by NetEnt

Gonzo’s Quest has been a cult favourite since its release in 2012. NetEnt pretty much redefined online slots with unique features like Avalanche and dedicated bonus rounds! Gonzo is a Spanish explorer on a “quest” to find ancient treasures.

The game has 5 reels and 3 rows. You’d be glad to know that there’s a Megaways version of this title too!

Starburst by NetEnt

Yet another timeless masterpiece by NetEnt. This game is not heavy on any themes other than space and gemstones. If we have to guess, it’s the simplicity of the game that made it so popular. Even players with no experience in the iGaming industry can play this game and enjoy their time.

Starburst shares the place with Book of Dead when it comes to the operator’s preference on what games they want the players to play.


What are the best online slots in Canada?

We’ve already listed the top 3 slots for Canadian players. Apart from these, there are thousands of options available to you at the best online casinos.

What are online slots bonuses?

Unless a bonus is explicitly offered on table games or live dealer games, all of them can be used on slots. Keep in mind that the bonus rounds in a game and a promotional campaign run by the casino are different.

Are online slots legal in Canada?

Online gambling is legal and regulated at a provincial level. As online slots are part of online casinos, they’re legal too.

Can I play slots for real money?

All games including slots at a Canadian online casino are for real money. Unless you play the game in demo mode.

How do I know if an online slot is high payout?

The easiest way to determine the payout potential of a slot is by looking at the RTP. The higher the RTP, the more you can expect to win in the long run.