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The History of the Scratchcard

Every day, millions of people all around the world buy a scratchcard or two along with their groceries or fuel when they fill up their car. They do this in the hope of scooping a big prize, and sometimes even a life-changing one. But not many people give much thought to the long and interesting history that has led up to them being able to play.



It’s a history that is continuing to develop and one of the latest innovations is a range of unique scratchcards online. These capture all the excitement of the physical scratchcard and add a few extra elements on top. For example, they let players choose which stake to play for and can also add online bonuses too.


But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to where the scratchcards all began. As with so many inventions, it was one that could only be created when the technology was in place. In this case, it was a combination of computer-controlled laser printing and the ability to overlay card with a latex-like substance that could be scratched off to reveal the symbols printed below.


It took the combined skills of a US computer whizz and tireless inventor called John Koza and a marketing expert called Daniel Bower to bring their skills together to produce the first scratchcards. The year was 1974 and they named their new company the Scientific Games Corporation. Before long, the very first scratchcards were rolling off the presses.


The first state to begin running a scratchcard lottery was Massachusetts with many others quickly following suit. The company was soon a huge success turning over more than $2.5 million a week – and the scratchcard revolution was truly on its way.


The next leap forward for the industry arrived in 1985 when a designer called Cal Tigner created a clear, plastic dispenser that held a number of different scratchcards that could be sited close to where customers were paying for their goods. The dispenser was the perfect way to display the bright, eye-catching cards to encourage impulse purchases. Before long, more than 200,000 of these dispensers were being sold every year.

HiddenTreasure-2957 by ABPMedia, on Flickr

"Hidden Treasure-2957" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by ABPMedia

In terms of the cards themselves, the technology used to produce them has changed very little from the early days, but one thing that has gradually increased has been the size of the prizes with some truly huge wins being recorded all over the world.


Now, with online scratchcards, there’s the facility to include animations and other features like a soundtrack that plays as the panels are being revealed. As technology advances, and this particular form of the scratchcard moves ahead, we can expect to see many more developments.


Now, as people getting used to new tech, and mobile accessibility, it will be interesting to see how much these new form of scratchcards develop. With so much going for them, no-one would be very surprised to see further growth.

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