Despite what you may think, scratchcards haven't actually been around that long. They were the brainchild of a US company, Scientific Games back in 1973. The first of its kind, the card was called ‘The Instant Game’. It had five panels that customers could remove with a coin, very much like today.
The card offered a jackpot prize worth $10,000 and visually was very similar to the cards you can still buy today. The popularity of the new card increased and during the 1980s and '90s, the company applied for many patents relating to their scratch cards. It was also around this time that they reached the UK shores, albeit with more modest jackpots.
But those jackpots and the scratchcard industry soon underwent a massive change. When the National Lottery was created in 1994 it propelled scratch cards to another level. Cards could be purchased Nationwide and the jackpots on offer were larger than anything seen before. By 2018 scratchcards were officially the UK’s second most popular form of gambling, after the National Lottery draws.
The National Lottery has a whopping 42 different scratchcard games available. They cost from £1 each to a heftier £10 each with top prizes ranging from £100,000 to £4m. That has had a massive impact on their growth with 12% of Brits buying at least one every four weeks up from about 9% in 2015. Interestingly, it is Scientific Games, from their base in Leeds, UK who are the secondary supplier of scratchcards to the National Lottery!
How Do They Make Scratchcards?
With thousands of scratchcards flying out shop doors daily, how do they actually make them? They may look relatively simple, after all, it's just a piece of cardboard with a foil topping. However, the production of a scratch card is quite a feat of engineering.
The actual printing of the card is the easiest bit. The complications arise when introducing anti-fraud measurements. Inkjets overprint serial numbers on the full-colour card. These are the numbers game operators use to identify genuine winners. The serial numbers are generated using mathematical algorithms. This prevents anyone from linking batches of numbers from winning cards.
You will also notice that when you scratch a card the numbers or simples often look slightly distorted. In some cases, they can actually be quite tricky to work out. That is because they use a ‘confusion pattern'. It is printed in layers on top of the game symbols to stop people using a strong light to reveal winning symbols.
Then there is the most easily recognised silver panel that you must scratch off with a coin. How do you create a substance that strongly adheres to the card, can't be tampered with, can't be seen through but can still be easily scratched off? The solution was a silver coating created from an acrylic resin mixed with aluminum paste and solvents.
Can I Win A Scratchcard Jackpot?
Yes, in theory, you can win one of the top scratch card jackpots. However, your odds are very, very low. The cards may give you decent odds of ‘winning a prize' but that could just be £1.
To win one of the mega jackpots, the odds are significantly higher. In fact, the chances of winning £4,000,000 in the National Lottery's £4m Jackpot scratch card are a paltry one in 7,500,000. And that is only relevant if the jackpot hasn't already been won!
The National Lottery can create a card with four top prizes. They can print millions of cards and distribute them across the country. Even if all four top prizes are claimed, they can keep selling the remaining cards without ever having to tell anybody that the top prizes are no longer available.
Why Is It Better To Play Scratchcards Online?
Unlike printed scratchcards, if a casino or legitimate website has an online scratchcard with an advertised jackpot, you have to be able to win it. That doesn't mean you will. It just means that you could.
So not only are the prizes often better but visually they are also better. Many contain movie style animation and sound effects with more interactive games. Many online cards will be tied-in with big movie releases or well-known TV shows.
Jackpot prizes can range from a few pounds all the way up to £1 million + with certain providers. If you play the Kong scratch card on Paddy Power Casino, you can even choose how much you want to play for. The more you spend on the card, the higher the potential jackpot goes – all the way to a cool £1,000,000.