If you wanted to distil gambling down to its essence you might end up with a scratch card. These things, which exist both on and off-line, and have a rich history, are about as close as you can get in the internet age to betting on the toss of a coin.
They’re not as popular as slots or casino games, and in the age of live streaming casino games, you have to wonder how much of a future they have. However, they’ve lasted for at least 10 years online already so maybe they have another couple of decades in them.
If you like them, you can still find them, and find them in large numbers, and in this guide, we’ll tell you about their history, how they work, where you’ll find them, what types of scratchcards there are, and how to play them.
We’ll also look at some examples of types of scratch cards and some popular titles.
Best UK Scratchcard Casinos Online
The History of Scratch Cards
Like most online gambling we start off-line for the history of scratch cards.
In the real world, these things are usually made of paper, with a silver foil covering of some sort. In the UK they are most often seen at the counters of convenience stores alongside the lottery terminal and National Lottery scratch cards are the most popular form of this gambling in the UK.
The first scratch cards were made by a company that you may well know from the online video slots market.
Scientific Games Corporation (who are branded as SG online) introduced “instant lottery games” with computer-generated cards in 1974, and in 1987 the scratch-off mechanism was patented in the US.
Scientific Games still make many of the cards we use today.
Scratch cards are popular. They are just about the most accessible form of gambling in the real world. If you’ve got £1 in the UK, you can have a quick flutter, and there’s a chance – a very outside chance – you might win a very large amount of money.
Online scratch cards started to appear around 2010. They have never quite matched the popularity of their real-world precursors. And you can understand why. Once you’ve logged on to a casino site you’re already in a gambling space, with a lot of choice of games, many of which offer high entertainment and skill factors. Scratch cards are super simple, and they are not a form of gambling that is only available in a non-gambling environment like a grocery store lottery card.
How Scratch Cards Work
There are a number of types of scratch card, both on and off-line.
The basis of the game is the same in both environments though.
A card is purchased. On the card, a predetermined pattern or set of symbols is hidden by a cover. The player makes a bet by purchasing the card, so these are fixed-stake betting opportunities. The player then removes either all or part of the covering to reveal what is underneath.
Then we have a number of options.
Players might be rewarded for revealing a matching set of symbols. Or for revealing a number or word that has been pre-set as a prize winner.
Many scratch cards operate like frozen slot machines, awarding prizes for slot combos that are already set up and waiting to be seen.
How Online Scratch Cards Work
Some things are different online, though these fundamental rules do not change.
You cannot carry a coin online of course. And you won’t get silver foil stuck in your fingernails online.
To play a standard scratch card, simply pull it up, and you’ll be given an option to reveal the prize winning options, their maybe a virtual coin for you to rub over the card, and there will be a reveal or scratch off button.
And that’s about it!
Examples of online scratch cards
We’ll take a look at some of the most popular online scratch cards in the UK online casino market as examples of how the form works.
Starting at the top, the most popular card in the UK (according to an industry analytics site that we trust) is:
Vegas by SuperlottoTV
The game is a set of casino games played as single-shot gambles on random numbers.
Unlike a real-life scratch card, this game has a sound control and you don’t turn it over to read the rules you click an “I” button.
There you’ll find a simple set of rules for the 4 games on offer on the card.
They are: roulette, dice, a slot, and a card game.
The other differences are a sound control, and a stake control.
This game allows you to set a stake from a pre-set list of totals: 7, 15, 35, 70, 150, 350, 700, and 1400 per rub. You move up and down this scale with plus and minus buttons.
Then you can play the games of your choice.
If you use the coin you can play one and then skip out, or you can press a “reveal all” button that will reveal all of the games at once.
The roulette wheel vanishes to reveal a “lucky number” in the centre, surrounded by 4 numbers that are assigned to the player, with prize amounts next to them.
In our game, the lucky number was 16, the player numbers were 11 (350), 18 (1050), 10 (70000), and 11 (1050). And you’ll see we didn’t win anything!
The dice game reveals three sets of dice. If any of the sets contain matching die faces then you win the prize. The prizes we were offered were 1050, 7000, and 7000, but as we had no matches we won nothing!
The slot game needs three matching symbols to award a prize, of 1400 credits, but we got no matches, just cherries, 7s, crowns, shamrocks, dice, coins and fruit with no matches.
The final game reveals 4 cards, and if one of them is an ace you win the prize under that card. The prizes were 1050, 350, 1050, and 350. But we won none of them!
This was on a 350 credit bet and the top prize that can be won on this game is 1,000-times your stake.
SuperLottoTV are a Lithuanian company who are probably the most popular scratch card company in the UK. They specialise in this form of gambling, have eight cards on the market at the moment, and are rated as the 123rd most popular provider in the UK slot market.
That’s a good result for a company with so few products in an area which is, frankly, not as popular as standard slots.
Let’s have a look at a popular slot-style scratch card.
7Up by Gemevy
7Up by Gemevy is a slot-style scratch card that is popular in the UK.
It is a 7-line slot game and basically equates to having seven spins on a three-reel slot game.
Like our previous example it has a menu option, and controls which you would never find on a real scratch card.
The main play area contains 7 lines of 3 windows each, with a prize window to the right.
To the right of that is a control panel with a lines selector, to allow players to decide how many lines they want to bet on, and a stake per line selector to allow players to set the amount they want to gamble on each line.
Under these are a turbo mode switch for fast play, and a play button to trigger the game.
Once the player has set these amounts they click the play button and however many lines they have selected flash into play.
If they see a set of three matching symbols across the pay line then they have won the amount in the prize box.
Like a slot, this game has a pay table that you access from the menu.
Prizes are multiples of stake, starting with fruits, with cherries and lemons paying the stake back, banana paying double stake, blueberry paying 5-times stake, watermelons 10-times.
Then we have some lucky symbols, with horseshoes paying 20-times stake, clovers 50.
And then some classic slot symbols: diamonds paying 100-times stake, bells 200-times, bars 1,000-times and 7s 10,000-times.
The game also has a theoretical return to player or RTP. This measure is a long-term expected pay out and not a prediction of how your game will go.
This game has an RTP of 92.09%. This compares very badly with the average for slots, which, in 2020 is around 96%.
The top prize is 10,000-times stake, and with a top stake of £10 per line, you could win £100,000 in one go.
The lowest stake you can play with is 2p per line. The highest bet you can make is £10 per line on 7 lines so £70. As you can see, it’s easy to spend plenty of money on this game!
Witch Pickings from NextGen
A more sophisticated version of a slot can be found with a tie-in from a game that exists as a slot, in this case, Witch Pickings from NextGen, part of SG (our old friends, Scientific Gaming).
This game is set up to look like a slot with a 9 symbol grid bordered by a pay table that shows the prize multipliers, for:
A bottle paying 1-times stake; a cauldron paying double a castle paying 5-times stake; three character symbols paying 10, 50, and 100-times stake, and a magical creature paying 5,000-times stake.
Players use a play button to scratch and reveal, and a sliding scale to set stakes from 1p a go, to £25.
At the top of the pay table the game logo sits, promising a BONUS.
The bonus round is a prize ladder. Collecting (magic) mushrooms allows you to proceed up the ladder and awards prizes.
The prize ladder runs from 5-times stake for 3 mushrooms to 10,000-times stake for 9.
There is also an autoplay function.
This game is much more like playing a slot than a scratch card. And its stats are more similar to classic slot games too, with a theoretical return to player of 96.699%, which is great value, and a maximum prize of 5,000-times stake.
More than Scratch Cards, the World of Instant Wins
This is a very broad category.
The games can be as simple as a 9-symbol grid with numbers hidden behind a screen. Press a button and you see the 9 numbers. If 3 of them match you’re awarded that amount.
Games like this even try to look like the cardboard items you buy in the shops.
Or they can be much more sophisticated, like the slot games we’ve shown above.
In fact, the category may be defined as “instant wins” and might include a whole host of games, as long as they are defined by a single action to reveal prizes.
For example, many casino sites will list Slingo games as “instant wins”.
These games are a cross between a slot and a bingo card, and they do operate as an instant win card.
A 5 by 5 grid of numbers sits over a line of 5 numbers. When the player hits spin the 5 numbers at the bottom are revealed, and matching numbers on the row above them is turned into a winning symbol. By collecting rows or columns of winning symbols players are awarded prizes.
Slingo Berserker is a Slingo version of a slot game.
The player selects a stake and is granted 11 goes at the game.
A pay table to the left of the playing grid gives the prizes for the stake you have chosen, in our example going from 50p (from a £1) to £100 for 10 clustered symbols, and £500 if all of the numbers on the board are matched and turned.
These games are more sophisticated than most instant wins. They have, for example, wilds, which select a whole row and allow the player to select one number of his or her choice in that row to be converted.
Slingo Berserker also has a bonus jackpot game, with a four-tier jackpot of £20, £40, £500, and £1,000 that is won by matching picked Viking symbols.
A mace symbol in the base game costs you a chance at matching a number, but there is also a free spins symbol that will give you an extra turn.
You can buy extra turns, and set limits on your play, which is a nice safe gambling option.
The game has stats not far from an average slot, with 1,000-times stake the top prize, and 95% theoretical return to player. Most scratch cards don’t report a volatility figure – a ratio between prize size and prize frequency – but this one does, marking itself as average, or medium.
Slingo games are probably the most popular form of instant wins at the moment.
How to Play Scratch Cards on Your Favourite Online Casino Safely
To play instant win or scratch card games on an online casino site, you will need to be of legal age, and you will need to verify that. You’ll also need an account and some cash.
You can play these games for free at some sites, including review sites, and at the sites of some game manufacturers, but you should be asked to verify your age even if you’re not playing for money.
Sign up at a site that is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission and has shown you that it is a good quality and trustworthy place to put your money. We have lots of guides on this should you need advice.
Then use your preferred method to cash up your account.
Then you’ll need to find the games you want to play.
And this isn’t so easy! Instant win games and scratch cards are not nearly as popular as slots. While some sites list them separately, making them easy to find, others do not. Some sites have no instant wins at all. Slingo is the instant win – or relative – that you’re most likely to find in our experience.
So use Google or a review site to find a site that offers instant win games if this is what you want to play.
Bingo sites are a good option as they tend to have lots of these games, which work well as side games to be played during a bingo card.
For example, we found no listing for scratch cards or instant wins at 888 Casino. The same at All British Casino. But at Pink Casino, we found 20 games under their instant wins section. Casino.com also has a fair number of online scratchcard games.
This was a good range, taking in Slingo titles, as well as more traditional games like Scratch 4 Diamonds, and Deal or No Deal Instant, which is perfect for this style of play, and slot link-ups.
Should You Play Scratch Cards?
Scratch cards obviously have their fans. They’re fast and convenient, and if you are playing on a mobile they work very well on small screens.
However, if you want to play a game with much gameplay depth then you’ll need to choose your games carefully (check out Slingo, and slot tie-ins). These games also often have a much lower RTP than slots, so you might find yourself waiting for wins and racking up the spending.
Whatever you play, play it safely and for fun only.