Are Scratch Cards as Popular as They Used to Be?

Scratch Cards

There are many ways that UK punters enjoy trying their luck to win cash prizes they can pad their wallets with.

Aside from lotteries, casinos, and sports betting, scratch cards have been a popular option for decades.

Since the advent of iGaming, however, this form of gambling has been pushed slightly aside.

Although newer games that also offer instant rewards have been actively competing for the attention of players who frequently buy scratchers, scratch cards remain popular.

Below, we’ll examine whether this popularity is at risk of crashing or if the humble scratch card is still a beloved way to experience the thrill of gambling and win instant prizes.

Origin of Scratch Cards

Many people believe that scratchers have existed almost as long as the lottery, but this isn’t true.

They were first invented in 1974 by John Koza, an American with a PhD in computer science who worked for a firm that printed bingo cards for nationwide distribution.

Thinking it may interest players to claim an instant reward, he developed the idea of the scratcher.

Within seven days after the marketing efforts for this novel gambling method began, more than £2.08 million worth of scratch cards were sold in the US—equating to more than the lottery at the time.

By 1994, the idea of the scratcher had made its way across the ocean. Brought to the public by Camelot (who operated the National Lottery at the time), the allure of instant wins immediately grabbed the attention of almost all gamblers.

As gambling began to move online, scratchers followed. The National Lottery started allowing retailers with an e-commerce presence to sell tickets online.

It also launched multiple instant-win games based on the physical cards available at retailers across the country.

The Appeal of Scratch Cards

As mentioned earlier, part of the reason scratchers were created was to allow players to gain an instant answer to whether or not they won.

Unlike the lottery, in which you have to wait for the draw to occur, this allowed winning players to begin celebrating almost immediately.

However, this instant gratification isn’t the only allure of these cards, as accessibility has long been another selling point. Because the National Lottery manages them, scratchers are commonly offered in any retailer where lottery tickets can be purchased.

Although post offices have recently stopped providing them, more than 30,500 retailers still sell them, making purchasing a scratch card incredibly easy for any UK player of legal age.

Alongside easy access, scratchers have evolved to offer incredible jackpot amounts. Although the cards traditionally cost just £1, the jackpots they provided weren’t anything special. This is no longer the case.

Today, scratchers offer jackpots of up to £4 million for the price of just £5.

Additionally, many scratchers offer other unique prizes, such as cars and vacations. Some even provide reoccurring payments that offer £250,000 annually for 15 years.

How Many Scratch Cards Are Bought?

Between 2000 and 2016, scratch cards saw a steady increase in sales throughout the UK. Data compiled by the UK Gambling Commission shows that, on average, £1.26 billion was generated through the sale of scratchers to UK punters.

The first dip in this annual growth occurred in 2017, when only 976.77 million scratch cards were sold (worth £2.44 billion). This represented a significant drop compared to the year prior when 1.08 billion (£2.6 billion) were sold.

Amazingly, the industry seemed to recover well following 2018, with an average of 996 million scratchers (£2.54 billion) sold between then and 2020. However, reduced sales in 2020 due to global lockdowns lowered this average.

After the pandemic, the industry seemed to recover slightly but was again hit by lower sales. This came to a head in 2022 when many players opted to purchase necessities over risking their hard-earned money on gambling.

Are Scratch Cards Still Popular?

Declining sales may be indicative of a generation that is more interested in online instant-win games.

Many players nowadays search online for great ideas for getting started when it comes to gambling. As a result, scratchers are often overshadowed by online options, including online casino games and sports betting.

In reality, it is more than a shift in how punters find their gambling thrills. While scratch cards are undoubtedly here to stay and remain immensely popular among players, alternative play methods can offer greater rewards and (in some cases) are more accessible.

In addition, recent new legislation resulting from the National Lottery’s change in management will likely also negatively impact the sale of scratchers across the UK.

Camelot, which has run the National Lottery for decades, has been replaced by Allwyn as of February 2024. As part of the change, all scratch cards offered to punters are now issued and operated by Allwyn.

Announced in late January, Allwyn is implementing many changes, including how much lottery tickets will cost.

Among these changes is a limit on how many scratch cards an individual can purchase both online and at a physical retail location.

Where there has previously been no limit, sales will now be restricted to no more than ten scratchers per person in a single transaction. This move, said to be a step toward protecting players from addictive gambling, is likely to impact sales.

Conclusion

The protection of players is paramount in gambling. However, scratch cards are already facing declining sales as players opt for online instant-win games, and further restrictions on purchasing cards may be detrimental to the industry.

On the brighter side, while scratch cards may not be as popular as they once were, they remain a formidable opponent to alternative ways to gamble.

As such, it is unlikely that they will be going anywhere soon, so you should still be able to grab your favourite scratcher long into the future.