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Online Scratch Cards a ‘Waste of Time?’

4 February 2011 by admin

scratch-card-winner-onlineToday I stumbled upon an article about online scratch cards by TechWatch, a UK online publication that covers technology. Tom Coyne, writing for the tech publication, says that online scratch cards are a “complete waste of time.” He makes that declaration after observing that what you do with the scratch card doesn’t actually determine its outcome.

Before getting into why Coyne’s opinion irks me, here’s a little background, for those who are not familiar with online scratch cards. Like the scratch cards that you can purchase at a convenience store, supermarket or pub, the online version is a kind of lottery game. Like any lottery game, it is a game of chance. When buying a lottery ticket or a scratch card at a convenience store, no one thinks that they can impact the odds of the game. They are simply hoping that they bought a winner. The scratch cards give you the added drama of scratching off each part and waiting to see if you have a winner.

Online scratch cards are the same, but instead of actually scratching, a click of the mouse unveils the results. In some cases, the cards are more advanced and interactive. Many have entertaining animations and some even have a board game type of format. This is all window dressing, as Coyne rightly points out:

“The moment the card is selected, the system immediately decides if you win or lose, before you have even played the game,” he says. “It’s hard coded into the system, there is no luck involved.”

It seems that Coyne understands luck and gambling about as well as he understands punctuation (hint: his last sentence needed a semicolon rather than a comma). Coyne says that online scratch cards are a waste of time because the outcome is determined as soon as you buy the card. Each person decides what they think is worth their time, but he is correct about how the winner is determined. A random number generator (RNG) chooses the outcome as soon as the scratch card is purchased. The “luck” is about whether or not you choose a winning card.

When you play a slot machine – either online or at a brick and mortar casino – the outcome is determined by a RNG as soon as you push the button or pull the arm. Still, you wait for the reels to spin, even though they don’t really determine the outcome. Some people think that makes slots a waste of time. I disagree. They have a purpose, as an easy game that gives you a chance for a huge payout. It is not a game with good odds, though. Slots, like scratch cards, have a high house edge. If you want a casino game with better odds, I suggest blackjack.

Whether the outcome is determined by selecting the ticket or by scratching it, the outcome is the same. For that matter, if you buy a scratch card at a store and scratch it off with a quarter, the activity of scratching the card did not change what was underneath. That was determined by the card you were given, so what’s the difference?

The truth is that scratch cards are games with a high house edge but the potential for big money. I don’t play them, but would never tell those that do that it is a waste of time. It depends on what you’re looking for in a game. As for how the winners are determined, if the outcome is the same anyway, does it matter how the outcome was derived?

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