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What is used to make scratch cards?

Scratch cards, also known as scratch-off tickets or instant win tickets, are a type of lottery game that involve scratching off a coating on the card to reveal symbols or numbers that indicate if a prize has been won. There are several key components that go into making scratch cards.

The Base Material

Scratch cards start with a card stock base. This card stock serves as the foundation that everything else gets printed and assembled on. The card stock is typically made from a heavy paper or cardboard that provides a sturdy surface so the cards can withstand normal handling without ripping or creasing easily. This stock may be made of materials like:

  • Paperboard – A thick, rigid type of paper
  • Chipboard – A paperboard made from recycled paper or wood chips
  • Polyester – A type of plastic polymer
  • Teslin – A synthetic printing material

The specific card stock material used can vary between different scratch card manufacturers and the type of scratch game. Thicker stock may be used for games expected to have heavier use while thinner stock may be used for promotional or disposable cards. The card base material ultimately needs to be durable enough to hold up through printing, secure enough to not reveal answers early, and economical enough for mass production.

Printing Layers

On top of the card stock base are the printed layers that create the scratch ticket design and hiding areas. There are typically multiple layers printed in succession on top of the card material. These layers may include:

  • Play area layer – This is the main scratch area that hides the symbols, numbers, or game results.
  • Results layer – Hidden indicia printed under the scratch off areas that indicate if the card is a winner or not.
  • Graphics layer – Images, text, and stylized artwork that make up the visible ticket design.
  • Gray layer – A solid gray blocking layer that prevents the results from being seen through the play area.
  • Release layer – Covers play areas with a material that facilitates easy scratching.

These layers are printed using special security inks, often by a process called flexography. This uses raised plates to transfer ink onto the card surface. The printing process carefully aligns each layer and uses specialized patterns, fonts, and symbols to make counterfeiting difficult. The layers combine to create an opaque scratch surface that hides the outcome while presenting colorful ticket artwork to the player.

Scratch-Off Coatings

The key component that gives scratch tickets their name is the scratch-off coating. This is a specially engineered coating that gets applied on top of the play area after printing. This opaque coating accomplishes several things:

  • Completely hides the symbols, numbers, or results printed under it.
  • Protects the hidden indicia from early detection.
  • Gives the look and feel of a scratch area for user interaction.
  • Removes easily when scratched without damaging ticket.

These coatings are typically made from blends of latex polymers, aluminum silicate, waxes, and other substances. The coatings provide a gray or black barrier that is scratch resistant but able to be lifted off with a coin or fingernail. Formulating these coatings requires carefully balancing properties like strength, opacity, flexibility, and scratch effort.

Common Scratch-Off Coating Types

There are a few common types of scratch-off coatings used in lottery tickets and games:

  • Latex-based coatings – Most common type. Made from styrene-butadiene latex and fillers.
  • Wax-based coatings – Softer feel. Use waxes and polymers.
  • Heat-sensitive coatings – Darken when scratched. Contain leuco dyes.
  • Foil coatings – Use metal foil layer. Provides shine.

The specific coating can be customized for the type of game, desired scratch sensation, and level of security necessary. Manufacturers may use proprietary coating formulations as trade secrets.

Specialty Coatings and Additives

For added protection and security, scratch card tickets may also incorporate some specialty coatings and chemical additives:

  • UV dyes – Fluoresce under black light to show authenticity.
  • IR blockers – Prevent seeing through ticket with infrared cameras.
  • Anti-stick coatings – Prevent residue during scratching.
  • Primer coatings – Help subsequent layers adhere to the substrate.
  • Varnishes – Provide outer protection layer.

These extra measures enhance the security, playability, and appearance of the scratch card final product.

Editing and Validation

After printing and applying scratch-off coatings, the cards go through additional inspection and validation steps:

  • Printing quality checks – Ensure print alignment and color accuracy.
  • Coating adhesion tests – Confirm coatings stick and have proper hardness.
  • Results verification – Check that results under coating match printed specifications.
  • dimension testing – Validate cut size and shape correctness.

This editing ensures the scratch card tickets meet the manufacturing standards before they get packaged and distributed for sale. The validation process also provides a record that prizes in circulation match the stated odds.

Packaging and Distribution

After all printing, coating, and verification, the scratch cards get packaged into books or boxes:

  • Cards stacked together in specific quantities (100, 500, etc).
  • Wrapped in paper or plastic wrap.
  • Given package label indicating quantity, game, and security codes.
  • Boxed in set configurations for shipping to retailers.

Secure distribution chains then deliver the packaged scratch tickets to authorized retailers and sales outlets. This provides players with reliable scratch games in convenient locations.

Key Considerations

Some key factors to creating effective scratch card tickets include:

  • Using durable card stock that withstands flexing and scratching.
  • Printing precision to align multilayer indicia.
  • Applying scratch-off coatings evenly and consistently.
  • Balancing ticket costs and profit margins.
  • Incorporating security features to prevent fraud.
  • Validating results match announced prizes.
  • Establishing efficient distribution logistics.

By bringing together the right materials, printing methods, security protocols, and business partnerships, scratch card games provide an entertaining lottery experience.

Environmental Impacts

While scratch cards are designed to provide economical games of chance, their production and disposal do entail some environmental considerations:

  • They consume raw materials like paper, inks, and polymers.
  • Manufacturing uses energy and generates pollution.
  • Many tickets end up in landfills after use.
  • Scratch-off residues persist in the environment.
  • Some materials may not be biodegradable.

However, manufacturers can take steps to improve sustainability such as:

  • Sourcing recycled card stock and organic inks.
  • Streamlining production to minimize waste.
  • Using thinner coatings to reduce materials.
  • Designing for recyclability after use.
  • Investing in renewable energy.

More eco-friendly scratch card production is an important consideration for meeting environmental targets in the future.

The Future of Scratch Cards

Scratch card games are likely to continue evolving in coming years. Some possible advances include:

  • Augmented reality games with mobile apps.
  • Using e-paper for rewritable tickets.
  • Incorporating near-field communication (NFC).
  • Interconnectivity with online games.
  • Virtual reality and gesture-based interactions.

Manufacturing improvements may also allow faster production with wider game variety and more secure identity validation. By merging new technologies with the convenience of disposable tickets, scratch cards seem poised to maintain appeal with modern lottery players.

Scratch Card Manufacturers

Some top scratch card manufacturers around the world include:

Company Location
Scientific Games USA
Pollard Banknote Canada
IGT United Kingdom
NeoGames Israel
Diamond Game Canada
Astro Corp Chile
Intralot Greece
Colorado Lottery USA
Kopiko Indonesia
Tatua India

These companies compete in the global lottery market valued at over $300 billion. They invest heavily in security research and new gaming innovations to retain their competitive positions.

Major Scratch Card Brands

Some top scratch card brands from state lotteries and private companies include:

  • Cashword – New York Lottery
  • $500 Frenzy – Florida Lottery
  • Super 7s – Pollard Banknote
  • Players Club – Diamond Game
  • Prime Time Bingo – IGT
  • Raffle – NeoGames
  • Scratchers – California Lottery
  • Mega Crossword – Scientific Games
  • 7 Slot Spectacular – Astro Corp
  • Golden Keno – Intralot

These major brands invest in marketing and game design to drive player engagement. Brand reputation has significant influence on scratch card sales and revenues.

Regional Scratch Card Variations

Scratch cards have some notable geographic differences:

Region Popular Features
United States Big jackpot prizes, sports themes, seasonal tickets
Europe Simple symbols, bright colors, many small prizes
Asia Pacific Anime styles, reflex games, interactive elements
Latin America Tied to holidays, vibrant artwork, loyalty programs
Africa Community charity games, basic symbols, focus on accessibility

These variations cater to cultural sensibilities and trends in each market. However, increased globalization is leading to sharing of popular formats across regions over time.

Scratch Cards vs. Other Lotteries

Scratch cards have some advantages and disadvantages compared to other lottery games:

Factor Scratch Cards Jackpot Lotteries
Game pace Fast instant gratification Delayed results (weekly/daily draws)
Prizes Typically smaller wins Chance at multimillion jackpots
Ticket cost Lower (often $1-$30) Higher ($2-$10 most common)
Playing method Scratch off ticket Pick numbers on play slip

These tradeoffs allow each format to appeal to different segments of lottery players based on preferred style of play, affordability, and jackpot aspirations.


In summary, scratch card lottery tickets require the complex integration of specialized card stock, multi-layer printing, proprietary scratch-off coatings, and advanced security measures. The combination of longevity, playability, obscurity, and prize validity in a disposable ticket is a considerable manufacturing achievement. With origins in 1970s state lotteries, scratch games combine entertainment and the allure of instant winnings on an economical ticket. While environmental impacts exist, improvements in sustainability are advancing. With imaginative new gaming concepts on the horizon, scratch cards continue to provide an important lottery sector engaging players worldwide.