Up To Scratch – Why are scratchcards so popular?

Scatchcards net sales of around £8.1 billion each year in the UK alone, with billions more sold around the world. Despite the fact that there are now a huge number of options for those who enjoy betting and gambling, these cards remain incredibly popular and, in this article, we’re going to take a look at the history of the humble scratch card. To learn more about different types of gambling and how it works, visit the LV BET casino blog (LV BET URHEILUBLOGI).

Quick fix

Scratchcards (or scratch-offs, or scratchies) are tickets that can be bought at a variety of outlets, including supermarkets, newsagents, and online. These cards were created for those impatient folk who don’t want to wait for a scheduled lottery draw and are usually priced between £1 and £5. Providing a hit of instant gratification, the player scratches off panels on the card for a chance to win a range of prizes, including a top prize of £4 million. 

Scratching the surface of the lottery

In the UK, scratchcards first emerged in June of 1995, following the hugely successful launch of the UK National Lottery in 1994. Originally, the UK National Lottery did offer a card that cost £10, however, these were discontinued in 2019 due to concerns over gambling addictions associated with cards. 

Although UK scratchcards offer the opportunity to win the top prize of £4 million, the odds of bagging this prize are around 1 in 4000,000 – you are, however, in with a good chance of winning more modest sums of £5 and £10 on these cards. Winners of smaller amounts can visit any lottery outlet to receive their cash, however, for larger wins, a call needs to be made to Camelot for verification. 

Born in the USA

It’s fair to say that the United Kingdom was fairly late on parade when it came to introducing scratch cards as, in the USA, these first appeared in the 1970s. 

Computer Scientist John Koza was, in the early 1970s, working for J&H International – a company that produced Bingo cards for sale in grocery stores. These predecessors to the scratchie worked on the same principle whereby a player would scratch off a special coating to reveal a prize. In 1972, for an undisclosed reason, John was fired from his position at J&H International – giving him plenty of time to think about his next move. 

It soon occurred to John, an algorithm expert, that he could apply the core principles of J&G’s Bingo cards to the US National Lottery and, he soon partnered up with promoter, Dan Bower, to try to make that happen. The initial resistance the two met with was down to security – lottery authorities in the USA worried that such cards would be open to fraud. Koza and Bower had been pitching their lottery card idea for about a year when they met up with the head of the lotto commission, William Perault, who decided to take a chance on the idea. 

A taxing subject

After wading through a considerable amount of red tape – including tax issues, and a requirement for a ‘secret recipe’ for the scratchcard coating – the new lottery scratchcard finally hit stores in 1974 – and was an instant hit; so much so that Koza and Bower’s new company, struggled to keep up with demand as $2.7 million worth of tickets flew off shelves in the first week of the sale. 

The winner

In 2016, Wetherspoons pub manager, Amadou Gillen, pulled more than pints when a scratchcard revealed that he had won the top prize of £4 million. The delighted father of two quit his job and planned a couple of holidays – but not before first going back to work that day to finish his shift. 

Unable to quite believe his luck, Amadou didn’t tell his family in the Gambia of the full extent of his win until he received verification from Camelot, explaining, ‘I was so excited, but I didn’t tell them about the win. I just said I had got lucky and would let them know how lucky in time.’

The losers

Over the years, UK scratchcards have provided a great payday for a lot of Brits, including a few millionaire winners. Unfortunately, wherever there’s innovation, there’s also crime and, while fraud is rare in the scratchcard market, crime does occur. In 2019, two men from Bolton, UK, Mark Goodram and Jon Watson, were jailed for 18 months after using a stolen credit card to buy groceries and scratchcards at a Waitrose store in London. 

When the scratchcard netted an incredible £4 million win phoned in their claim before going on a four-day bender in the capital. Their celebrations, however, were short-lived as suspicions were raised by a Camelot official after the men stated that they did not have a bank account with which to receive their winnings – despite having bought the ticket with a debit card that was linked to a UK bank account. 

Going digital

These days, as with so much else, scratchcard fans can now buy digital cards for extra convenience. These are available from the National Lottery website, and allow the same instant win as physical scratchcards, although top prizes tend to be a little lower – for example, the Multiplier Blue scratchcard has a maximum prize of £250,000 (which, of course, is not to be sneezed at). 

As well as the National Lottery, there are many other sites that offer digital scratch cards and, while most of these are legitimate, it’s always a good idea to check a site out first before committing your hard-earned cash. In 2015, the Gambling Commission issued a warning after a number of customers reported being reeled in by a scheme whereby they would pay a monthly fee for digital scratchcards – and they would also earn fees by promoting the game to others. 

Under the Gambling Act of 2005, this is illegal and can even result in a prison term of up to 51 weeks. Commission Director for regulation, Nick Tofiluk, said, “The law is quite clear on this matter – you cannot promote a lottery for private or commercial gain. We would advise anyone thinking about taking part in any scheme that involves purchasing, or encouraging others to purchase, online scratchcards to think very carefully before promoting an illegal lottery to others”.


Buying a scratch card along with your pint of milk or newspaper can be great fun and, for the most part, is completely helpless. In order to keep your money safe, you should always make sure that you only buy your cards from a reputable retailer. It’s also worth noting that, while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying the odd scratchie, you should always keep an eye on your gambling behaviors.

If you find that every small win on a scratch card is going straight back into the system to buy more cards, you may want to take a break for a little while to avoid your hobby turned into an addiction. The fast and simple format of scratchcards means that they can be highly addictive, so, as with any type of gambling, always ensure that you’re never gambling more than you can afford.