History and evolution of Scratch Cards: From Supermarkets to regulated Online Casinos

We delve into the fascinating history of scratch-off games, from their beginnings as cards - both in lottery games and as collectible and promotional elements for all kinds of products - to the current era of online and scratch tickets offered by State Lottery operators and regulated online casinos.

Gambling has been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and one of the most exciting and straightforward formats is the 'Scratch and Win' game.

In this INFOPLAY SPECIAL REPORT, we will explore in the first part the history and evolution of these games.

In a second part, we will analyze their current situation in the regulated online gambling markets such Spain or other regulated markets in Europe and LATAM, still coexisting with physical scratch cards. We will also compare both formats.

Finally, in a third part, we will focus on ONCE's Scratch Cards (Rascas de la ONCE) and we will try to explain the reasons that have led ONCE to the overuse of this game in its online and in-person offering while the scratch cards from private gambling operators licensed by the DGOJ barely account for 1% of their available game offering.

In this PART 1 analysis, we examine the growth and future prospects of this genre, providing examples of real cases to illustrate our points.

History and Evolution of 'Scratch and Win' Games

Scratchcard games, or "scratch and win" cards, originated from lottery tickets printed on paper, which became popular in the 1970s. These tickets featured a protective layer that players had to scratch off to reveal the hidden symbols and determine if they had won a prize.

The simplicity of the game and the thrill of instantly finding out if you had won a reward made it an instant hit. It quickly became a characteristic of any form of promotion or collectible element far removed from any relation to the lottery or gambling, with adaptations commonly seen in products of all kinds such as candies, chocolate bars, and fast-food restaurant menus in the 80s and 90s. Bars, kiosks, and tobacconists were the most common distribution establishments.

Evidently, with the advancement of technology, scratch and win games have adapted to different formats and platforms to expand their reach. In the 1980s, the first scratch and win games were introduced in electronic machines and video games. Subsequently, slot machines also began to include scratch card themes, albeit at a very primitive level, but with animations and sounds that added excitement to the game and were already boasting of having created a kind of interactive experience.

The advent of online casinos in the late 90s and early 2000s opened up a new market for scratch and win games, which were soon incorporated into the software developers' offering. Thus, especially in countries and markets where the physical format of "scratch and win" continued to be popular at the lottery level, online casino operators began offering digital versions of these games, trying to replicate the most well-known themes at the physical card level.

There were times when not much attention was paid to Responsible Gaming, and these games were not considered particularly harmful or related to the versions that had become popular in children's products a few years earlier.

So while the first online casinos prioritized roulette, blackjack, and baccarat tables, some of these games were gradually being incorporated into the sections of online slots.

In any case, their appearance was not something notable since we were still far from the design and technology advances that would mark the boom of online slots in internet gambling well into the first decade of the 2000s.

In any case, the consolidated digital format, always allowing players to virtually scratch the protective layer with the click of the mouse, confirmed the transition from the paper format to the digital format, allowing greater flexibility in terms of design and functionality, as well as the possibility of offering larger prizes and a variety of attractive themes.

For about a decade now, the Scratch and Win games offered by regulated gaming operators more closely resemble a slot than the traditional paper game of the 80s available in all kinds of establishments. In fact, many successful slots even have an adaptation to the scratch format...

Current Situation

Scratch and win cards outside of what would be lottery games have fallen out of use. However, at the level of gambling sponsored by public lottery operators, we are living in a time of boom. Cases like the "ONCE Scratch Cards" or the "Rasca Ràpid" product from Loteries de Catalunya confirm this.

A main characteristic of these State Lottery games, which have essentially become products of the "instant lottery" family, is that they are making a successful transition to online, with cases like the ONCE Rasca tickets in Spain or the "Raspadinha" in Brazil.

Indeed, since the implementation of the Ticket Regulation approved by Royal Decree 1067/1981, this scratch ticket format went from being in private hands to becoming a perfect game for exploitation by Lotteries, mainly autonomous ones, and notably those marketed by the Autonomous Entity of Games and Bets (EAJA) of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

It would not be until 1999 when adhoc legislation would allow this type of "instant" games to be included in the ONCE offer and later the green light would be given for SELAE to do so.

The reality is that the versions of "online scratch cards" marketed under brands with a physical presence (Loto Ràpid or ONCE's Scratch Cards) have transformed into true online gaming products similar to "slots" that require a DGOJ license but are offered without problems on the websites of Loteries de Catalunya and ONCE.

However, the growing popularity of online gambling is largely due to private and regulated operators, and there the reality is different as there is evidence that scratch games cannot compete with slots and much less with current trends such as the incorporation of live dealers and a realistic experience.

We will see this in more detail in the second part of this INFOPLAY SPECIAL, but the space for "Scratch" or "Scratch Cards" online is very limited in the offer of regulated gaming and fully integrated into the regulated product of slot machines.

In the image above, we see one of the few scratch games available among the fifty or so regulated operators: a game inspired by the sport of cricket whose mechanics involve clicking on the 9 squares and discovering with each click whether the symbols are repeated and we have won a prize.

The only Spanish operator that seems to give them a dedicated space and presents the "online scratch" games as exciting virtual experiences, gathering them in a section of their own, is Genting Casino. But about this bet of private operators on the Scratch Card product, we will give more details in Part 2 of this Special Report.



"Scratch and Win" games have undergone a notable evolution over the years, adapting to technological advances and leveraging opportunities in the online market. Both in their physical and online versions, these games continue to be a popular choice for gambling enthusiasts worldwide.

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