History of Scratchcards: From Offline to Online

Most of us will have enjoyed a scratchcard from time to time; when they were first introduced, they were available to purchase in High Street stores across the world. However, technology has moved on, and now you can also use online scratchcards to play your favourite games. So just where did the humble scratchcard come from, and how long has it been around?

The Premise

A scratchcard ticket is an instant lottery. The player purchases as many tickets as they want and scratches off the silver covering using something like the side of a coin. Rather than waiting to find out if they have won a lottery, this is an instant reveal. Over the years, different cards have been created that cost different amounts to purchase and have varying prices. Themed cards have also been made available for special occasions such as the Olympic Games. The cards will be printed based on the prizes available, so for example, there will be one jackpot winner, but thousands of people might be able to win a few pounds. They are then randomised and sent out across the country. It is still a random number generator type game, just that the outcome is predefined before it reaches the customer. There is absolutely no way to know whether you will win; you could buy 20 or 30 scratch cards and not win anything, whereas you could purchase one on a whim and win the jackpot.

The History

It might surprise you to learn that scratchcards have been around since 1974 in America. It was initially a lottery ticket with a special coating, but there were concerns that if held up to bright light, the results could be seen. It has since been improved, and there is now no way to cheat; once the scratch card has been used, it becomes worthless unless it is a winning card, and even then, there is no way to tamper with the value. Of course, there must be controls in place to ensure that it is entirely fair to all parties involved. Companies must be able to evidence the fact that winning tickets are in circulation to reassure people that this is not a con. Nevertheless, it captured the public’s imagination, and when the first instant game came to market, $2.7 million worth of cards had been sold within the first seven days. To put this into context, this was approximately three times as much as the National Lottery was generating at the same time.

In the 80s, tickets were moved to public display in shop storefronts across America, with a take a ticket device that means customers can see the tickets, but they can only be accessed by the vendor. The fact that they were now widely on display, not stored behind the counter as previously happened, boosted sales even further as people are much more inclined to purchase what they can see. However, the first scratch cards to come into circulation in the UK were not until 1995 and came from the National Lottery operators Camelot. To this day, it remains one of their most popular games.

Online Scratchcards

Over the last decade, all the traditional casino and gambling style experiences have moved to an online platform. So, it was natural that scratch cards would be recreated in a virtual arena as well. Again, they have undergone several incarnations to get to the versions we know and love today. Online versions of scratch cards don’t have quite the same appeal because there is no coin and physical ability to scratch off the coating from the card.

However, as computer-generated graphics improved, it became easier for programmers to develop something that looked as good as the real thing. Of course, you must move the mouse to replicate the scratching process, but these have now become top-rated games online with high-end graphic design. You also still have many different themes and will find scratch cards related to many of your favourite television shows, movies, and other fan franchises.

It is predicted that the next leap forward in technology for this online version of scratch cards will be to utilise virtual reality. Technically this would be possible now, but the additional hardware needed means that the virtual reality world of gambling and casinos is quite limited. It requires players to have expensive headsets, and in the case of replicating scratch cards, gloves would be needed. Once game houses work out how to tackle this limitation and remove the barrier to virtual reality to be accessible to all players, you will find many more games, including scratch cards moving to a virtual arena. In the meantime, there are a myriad of online scratch cards for you to choose from, and you can still pop down to the corner shop and pick up a real one.

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