In terms of popularity, online scratch cards play a distinct second fiddle to online slots and traditional casino games. Nevertheless, there’re just as enjoyable and fun to play. These days, online scratchcards can be found at an extensive array of casinos and offer a welcome alternative for players looking to take a break from spinning virtual reels and/or comparing cards.
Like all virtual casino games, the best online scratch cards seamlessly combine new and traditional elements to cater for the more sophisticated tastes of web-based gamblers. But how different are online scratchcard games to their classic, offline cousins? Well, as far as the base game goes, there’s not much difference at all.
A typical cardboard scratch card game comprises a series of covered boxes that can be rubbed or scratched away to reveal letters or numbers. If these letters or numbers match pre-specified patterns or sequences, the card-holder wins a prize. In the UK, some of the most popular scratch card games are offered as part of the National Lottery, with many featuring enormous prizes.
Online scratchcards tend to mimic offline versions. However they often include more favorable odds of winning than other casino games. Before going into this, let’s take a brief look at the history of online scratch card games.
Origins of the Scratch Card Game
Scratch cards are inextricably linked with lottery games. As with our very own UK lotto, they were originally offered as complimentary games to US state lotteries back in the 1970s. One of the first examples was known as The Instant Game and was sold as part of the Massachusetts State Lottery. Created by the Scientific Games Corporation, the game’s unexpected popularity spawned numerous imitations.
But it was in 1987 that the game became firmly established, when a Rhode Island company called Astro Med registered a patent for instant ‘scratch-off’ cards. It is this version that bears the closest resemblance to the modern scratch card game that we’ve come to know and love.
In the UK, the most popular offline scratchcards are known as ‘instants’. Originally introduced by the National Lottery in 1994, they’ve become hugely popular with the general public. In fact, many punters prefer these to the actual lottery itself.
The Advent of Online Scratch Cards
Online scratch cards started to appear in the early 2000s with some of the very first versions offered by online gaming portal, Jackpot Joy. The site offered eight instant win scratch-off games which included classics such as Treasure Hunt and Smugglers Loot. Although fairly primitive by today’s standards, these early titles proved extremely popular among gamers and helped Jackpot Joy build up a loyal, not to mention sizeable customer base.
Thanks to advances in web technologies, developers can now replicate offline scratch cards perfectly while adding extra elements that take game-play to another level. All variants that you’ll find at an online casino make use of random number generators to ensure that each outcome is 100% random and fair. They also must satisfy the regulations laid down by the top regulatory bodies.
Why are Scratch Cards so Popular?
To begin with, improved animations, better sound-effects and additional in-game features mean that scratch cards are now far more immersive and entertaining than ever before. They also put many offline versions to shame. As testament to their popularity, many are released as movie and TV-show tie-ins. The ‘Deal of No Deal’s scratch card is a prime example as is ‘The Crystal Maze’ scratch card game.
Simple and Convenient
Online scratch card games offer a degree of simplicity that proves extremely popular among certain players, especially those put off by the elaborate nature of modern casino games. In essence, scratch-offs are pure games of chance. No strategies are required, just luck - ideal for those looking for an uncomplicated spot of gambling that doesn’t require any skill or mental effort
They’re also not very time consuming with most games lasting just a few minutes. This element lends itself particularly well to ‘gaming on the go’ mentality (or madness depending on your viewpoint) that now grips most modern casino game gamblers.
Then you’ve got the act of scratching off a panel to reveal numbers and patterns. The instant gratification inherent in scratching off panels is just as enjoyable online as it is offline. If anything, the excitement is that much more pronounced given how much larger the prizes often are. The prospect of playing additional bonus rounds also contributes to the anticipation and suspense.
The Extent of the Online Scratch Card Prizes
Lotto instant games are renowned for their big prizes with some offering millions of pounds. Although these figures can’t usually be matched by online instant win games, there are still big prizes to be had. For instance, Deal or No Deal features a massive $25,000 jackpot. Multiply this by ten and you’ve got the total jackpot prize offered by Merlin’s Millions. Yes that’s right: $250,000.
Cheap to Play
Online instants are usually more affordable than online slots and classic casino games. Consequently, you’ll be able to get more bang-for-your-buck, without denting your budget that much. This is provided of course that you exercise some caution when setting aside funds.
Much like online slots, some of the newer instant win games include bonus rounds and extra games which add an extra layer of excitement. Although not to everybody’s taste, the inclusion of additional elements like these broaden the appeal of online scratch cards, particularly with players who tend to gravitate towards video slot games.
Which Developers Create Online Scratchcard Games?
Many of the big software houses develop online instant win games. Although most of them place a greater emphasis on crafting online slots, companies such as Netent, Microgaming and Playtech also offer a small portfolio of scratch card games.
Top Online Scratch Card Games
Despite the preoccupation with online slot games, more and more developers have started to release their own scratch card titles. Read on as we now take a look at some of the better ones. For ease of reference, we’ve also included their RTP.
Merlin’s Millions Scratch – 95.17% RTP
This nine-panel scratch card game from NextGen Gaming features sleek visuals and a polished game interface. Players can stake between 20c and $200 for the chance to bag up to $250,000. To win, you’ve got to match three symbols. Should you land three orbs an extra five scratch games will be awarded.
Deal or No Deal Instant Win – 87.27% RTP
Deal or No Deal is one of the most popular instant win titles and is based on the hit TV game-show. The gameplay follows a similar format to its terrestrial stable-mate with players required to open boxes and match their values in order to generate winnings. The lower the amount, the less boxes required to match the value. Once 14 boxes have been selected, the banker comes in to play which allows participants to select ‘no deal’ to carry on with the base game. Choosing ‘Deal’ triggers a bonus round in which players must match the value of three blue boxes. It’s an addictive online scratch card game, despite the relatively low RTP.
Genie Jackpots – 95.82% RTP
Genie Jackpots is linked to the online slot of the same name. Like its reel-spinning counterpart, it offers players access to the Vegas Millions progressive slot game, should they uncover letters that spell ‘VEGAS’. The base game pays out for matching three symbols in any position. These are made up of multipliers that boost the player’s stake value. There’s also a Treasure Chest bonus game that awards a cumulative cash prize.
Wish Upon a Jackpot – 96.06% RTP
This particular online scratch card features one of the highest RTPs of all virtual instant win titles. Comprising a fairy-tale theme that’s replete with fantasy-based imagery such as a Gingerbread Man and a Frog Prince, gamers must scratch away a series of panels and match three identical icons to win. There are also two bonus games. The first consists of an extra symbol-match round that relates to Jack and the Beanstalk. The second sees a Fairy Godmother appearing a random to create extra matching symbols which generate bigger prizes.
Foxin’ Wins – 90.72% RTP
With a better-than-average RTP of 90.72, Foxin’ Wins is another popular scratch card game. Developed by NextGen and based on the celebrated online slot of the same name, it follows a similar format to most other instant win games, with players needing to match three symbols to win a prize. The stake range is fairly broad, starting it as just $0.20 although you’ll be able to part with $200 if you’re feeling especially profligate. A $250,000 prize acts as the proverbial carrot on the stick.
Pixies of the Forest – 93% RTP
Another decidedly twee instant win game here, populated by a whole host of cutesy characters. Players are presented with a grid of 12 numbered tiles and three potential winning numbers. Land one of these on the grid and you’ll find a prize. Simple! Once you’ve placed your bet, you’ll be able to click ‘auto reveal’ or opt to reveal each tile one by one. Prize funds range from $1 to $200 with stakes of $1 to $10 permitted.
Online Scratchcard Games - Things to Keep in Mind
Despite comprising the same basic premise as offline instant win titles, it’s worth keeping a few things in mind when you play online scratch card games. Here are a few pointers.
The Online Scratch Card Game Interface
Just like any web-based casino game, you will be presented with a game interface that you should get acquainted with before playing. However, these tend to be extremely basic and usually require you to click a coin selector to choose your stake. Once you’ve got your head around this, all you’ve got to do is reveal hidden numbers and/or letters to match a pattern or sequence.
Check the Size of the Prize
It is of course extremely tempting to make a beeline for an instant win game that offers the largest jackpot. This is where the ‘in it to win it’ mentality often kicks in for players. And while you’ve obviously got a chance of striking it lucky, the chances of walking away with the big prize will be considerably lower. As is the case with casino slots, the lower the booty, the better your chances of cashing in.
Check the RTP
The best way to determine your chances of winning an online scratch card prize is by checking the return-to-player rate (RTP). It should be kept in mind that the RTP offers no guarantees. Instead, you should think of it as a helpful guide to how much you’ll likely win over a set period. Obviously the higher the RTP, the better your chances of winning.
Pick a Reputable Online Casino
This of course goes without out saying for any online casino game – to make sure that you don’t get stung, take care to choose an operator that’s licensed by a a reputable regulator such as the MGA. The MGA is one of the most respected regulators in the gambling industry and works to ensure that players are protected from unscrupulous operators. They also work closely with eCogra – an agency that tests all web-based casino games for fairness.
Set a Target, Forget about Hunches
Those of you familiar with Inside Casino will probably be aware that we don’t really like flawed thinking when it comes to gambling. Spurious notions and delusional assumptions can have a devastating impact on budgets and bank-rolls, regardless of the casino game you choose to play. So it goes with online scratch cards as well. It follows then, that you should avoid betting the farm based on some moronic hunch that somehow today’s the day that you’re ‘gonna win big’. Instead, decide how much you’re willing to spend over a fixed time period and stick with it! You’ll be far better placed to actually win something if you’re rigid about your budget.