Lottery and scratch cards ‘not harmless forms of gambling’

Alexandra Thompson
·2 min read
Coin scratching a lottery scratch card
Scratch cards were found to be 'particularly harmful'. (Getty Images)

Playing the lottery or scratch cards may not be “harmless”, research suggests.

Although often considered “good fun”, these “mild” forms of gambling could be a gateway to troublesome behaviour.

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Scientists from Curtin University in Perth looked at the gambling habits of more than 2,000 people.

Of the 540 who regularly bought lottery tickets, almost a third reported gambling-related issues like financial difficulties, psychological problems or relationship red flags.

Scratch cards were found to be “particularly harmful”, possibly due to the instant result and impression players came close to winning.

Pen markings on lottery ticket
Playing the lottery may not be 'harmless'. (Getty Images)

A survey of 8,000 adults found more than half (56%) of people in England gambled in 2016, but just 0.7% thought they had a “problem”.

In the US, almost 10 million (2.6%) are said to be addicted to gambling.

Lottery tickets and scratch cards are often considered harmless, despite little research into their impact.

To learn more, the Australian scientists focused on the 540 participants who bought lottery tickets.

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Results, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, suggest almost a third of the players had “some level of gambling-related risk due to their use of lotteries products”.

This was more common among the young, male participants. Smokers, vapers and scratch card users were also more at risk.

Lottery tickets aside, other “milder” forms of gambling may also be more dangerous than they seem.

“The data revealed scratchies were particularly harmful”, said lead author Leon Booth.

“We believe this is because some features of scratchies make them more appealing to problem gamblers, such as instantly letting the user know if they have won a prize and giving users the impression they were close to winning.

“We also found people who are generally vulnerable to developing gambling issues, such as younger adults and males, were most likely to experience problems with lottery gambling”.

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The scientists want people to be more aware of the risks of lottery tickets and scratch cards.

“The public needs to understand lottery products such as scratchies and lotto tickets are a true form of gambling and are therefore inappropriate gifts for children and youth,” said study author Professor Simone Pettigrew.

“Lottery products need to be acknowledged as more than harmless fun and a genuine type of gambling, and policymakers should act accordingly to reduce harms that result from these products.

“Our new findings add to an increasing body of evidence showing lottery products are associated with harm in a substantial minority of users.”