Scratch cards (SCs) or tickets are lottery-based games which are played by scratching to reveal numbers, letters or symbols to win prizes. Such activities have sometimes been likened to paper-based slot-machines, but relatively little systematic analyses have been conducted to examine the risk or harm associated with these activities. In this paper, we provide a narrative review of the peer-reviewed literature relating to the potential association between SCs and problem gambling and what is known from publically available data sources (e.g., prevalence studies and treatment data). Evidence is analysed within the context of the Bradford Hill Criteria. Both prevalence and peer reviewed literature suggest that SCs are less strongly associated with problem gambling than most other gambling activities. We argue that this difference is due to the nature of the products. SC gambling differs from slot-machine gambling in a number of structural ways; it is less continuous; has a slower event frequency; and, emerging literature suggests that near-miss design features are unlikely to have a significant impact upon behaviour. Thus, in our view, and based on the empirical evidence, it appears that earlier parallels between SCs and slot-machines now appear more tenuous. Nevertheless, we encourage further investigation into the potential impact of new and emerging online lottery products because of the more immersive, faster and more technology-based nature of these products.
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We did not find any studies that included online games (sometimes referred to as ‘Instant Win Games’). But the term ‘instant win’ is often applied to describe scratch tickets.
For consistency, we have only drawn upon the peer reviewed studies. However, inclusion of the Australian prevalence finding positions bingo even lower and sports and racing and casino games are found in the middle of the rankings. The similarity of the odds ratios for racing and casino games is evident in Table 1. The principal purpose of this paper was to focus on evidence relating to the relative risk of scratch tickets.
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This narrative review did not require any funding support.
Conflict of interest
Paul Delfabbro: I have received funding for research, support for conference travel and speaking engagements from government and non-government research bodies such as AGRI, VRGF, IAGR and the Department of Consumer Affairs, GambleAware/ RGT, Gambling Research Australia, Independent Gambling Authority, the ARC, NHMRC, Channel 7 Children’s Foundation and Australian Institute of Criminology. I have conducted paid consultancy work on responsible gambling for regulatory bodies, government, peak bodies such as the Australasian Gambling Commission and reviews of responsible gambling programs for some industry groups (e.g., reviews of list of indicators, self-exclusion program, host responsibility quality in relation to international best practice), but not received direct industry funding for any research. I acknowledge that many peak research bodies are indirectly funded by industry through levies or contributions. Jonathan Parke: Jonathan has received support for research, travel and speaking engagements from a variety of government and non-government sources including AGRI and GambleAware. He has conducted a number of commissioned reports for industry groups. The principal focus of this work has been on harm minimisation, responsible gambling and risk associated with different gambling products and features.
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Delfabbro, P., Parke, J. Empirical Evidence Relating to the Relative Riskiness of Scratch-Card Gambling. J Gambl Stud 37, 1007–1024 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-021-10033-2
- Scratch cards
- Problem gambling