A Complete History Of Scratch Cards

Every day, literally millions of people all round the world pick up a scratch card and a coin and, with great anticipation, scratch away the panels to see if they’ve won big. It’s a form of gambling that transcends cultures and national boundaries as well as being one that is so simple to play.

The widespread availability of scratch cards also means that they are available in tons of convenient places, such as at supermarket checkouts and in many other kinds of shops. As one of the easiest ways to gamble, they’re a favourite with people of all ages, giving you the chance to win anything from small change to big prizes.

Online scratch cards have also become hugely popular today, being even more engaging, convenient and easy to use than their printed counterparts. The growth of technology means they’re only going to get better and even more interactive as time moves on, with a range of different themes, sound effects and quality graphics to boot. One premier casino operator that currently offers a vast range of different themed scratch cards online is 888 Casino.

Where It All Began

As with most inventions from the internal combustion engine to the smartphone, technology had to reach a certain stage of development before the scratch card could first see the light of day. In this case, it was a combination of both computer and printing technology that first had to slot into place.

John Koza and Daniel Bower put their respective skills together to whip up the first proper scratch card. Koza was a graduate in computer science and Bawer was an expert in marketing. They began exploring the possibilities of printing randomized patterns of numbers or symbols that computers could create and overlaying them with a latex-style material that could be easily scratched off. In 1974 they formed a company called the Scientific Games Corporation and the very first prototypes of the printed scratch cards we use today were produced.

They also had a plan about who potential customers would be. They decided that the US states that relied on lotteries for fundraising would welcome this novel addition – and they were right.

The very first state to start using scratch cards was Massachusetts and the public immediately loved this new way to try their luck. Before long, it was generating an average of $2.7 million a week. Very soon a number of other states approached Scientific Games Corporation to commission their versions of the cards for their own lotteries.

Scratch Cards Hit The High Street

Scratch Off RTP
Every day people pick up a coin and a scratch card to try their luck.

For some years the sale of scratch cards was solely through official booths and other sellers. Originally, you had to request a scratch card at the counter but in 1985 an entrepreneurial businessman called Cal Tigner came up with the idea of creating a clear plastic container that could securely hold a number of rolls of the brightly coloured and appealing cards.

These could be sited near to cashiers and customers could see and request the cards they wanted, leading to impulse purchases while they were also paying for their groceries and other items.

The cabinets soon became an essential piece of retail equipment and within a few years Tigner’s company was selling 200,000 units a year, his profits soaring.

In terms of the cards themselves, little has changed since the original ones were produced in 1974. Yes, printing techniques have advanced allowing for ever more eye-catching designs, but the principle remains the same.

The Emergence Of The Online Scratch Card

Online scratch cards have breathed new life into one of the most simple and popular forms of gambling.

The early 21st century, however, saw a huge leap forward in scratch card technology. This was when online gambling sites were starting to appear offering players the chance to play their favourite games from the comfort of their own homes.

Scratch cards were an obvious addition to include. Naturally, you can’t physically scratch off the panels to reveal what’s underneath but the click of a button will have exactly the same effect. The advantage is that this encapsulates the excitement of an instant win and it also works just as well when you’re playing on a smartphone or tablet – and with mobile gaming now the most popular method it’s no wonder that online casino sites have optimised this kind of play.

Instant Wins – Big Wins

The instant win is one of the main reasons why the scratch card appeals to such a wide audience.

At the very heart of the appeal of scratch cards is the fact that players know instantly whether or not they have won. And with some cards having around a 1 in 4 chance of winning a prize, players can be reasonably confident that revealing the figures or symbols will be a gratifying experience. The fact that players don’t need to wait for a weekly lottery draw to see if they’ve won also adds greatly to the appeal, as do many of the prizes to be won.

That’s because even though the top prizes never begin to approach the amounts to be won in state, national or international lotteries, there have been some really remarkable wins over the years. In the US the highest prize won to date has been $10 million. The couple from Lexington North Carolina scooped the win in the Ultimate Millions game and took home $6 million after taxes.

In the UK in 2016, Amadou Gillen picked up a £4 million prize. Even though he’d won a life-changing amount he still turned up for work the next day and told the press that his 19-year-old daughter was “quite pleased” with the big win.

Cash For Good Causes

Of course, the real winners every single day from scratch cards are the good causes that are supported thanks to the money they raise. Of the £35 billion that the UK National Lottery raised since it began in 1994 a large proportion has come from scratch card sales and this has gone on to help sports teams, schools and charities as well as countless heritage projects across the country.

Looking to the future, the most exciting developments for scratch cards are likely to be in the online versions. Virtual and augmented reality could transform playing into a much more immersive experience – not to mention a much more rewarding one too!