The world's first electronic version of a lottery instant-scratch game begins statewide sales this week in Iowa.
The Iowa Lottery is the first to bring the new product, known as the electronic game card, to market. The first game card is "Quarter Play," which aptly describes it - with 80 plays on a card sold for $20, each play costs 25 cents. The game cards are being distributed for sale to lottery retailers beginning today.
Each electronic game card, about the size of a driver's license, is battery powered and loaded with random plays. Players activate the card by pulling off a plastic tab on the back, then push the "play" button on the front to get started. Each play loaded onto the card is the equivalent of an individual scratch ticket.
But in the case of the game card, an electronic play replaces the traditional scratch area on a paper ticket. Three small screens on the front of the game card display the numbers in a particular play and show whether that play has won a prize.
"The electronic game card represents an evolution of the lottery product," said Iowa Lottery CEO Ed Stanek. "By combining battery power with the popular features of the traditional products we've sold for decades, we're offering our players an exciting innovation, particularly in terms of extended playing time."
Players accumulate points, each worth 25 cents, by matching like numbers as they advance through Quarter Play's 80 plays. At the conclusion of all the plays, the game card displays the total points accumulated. Each card offers a guaranteed prize, and the top prize in the game is $500.
Players redeem the cards as they do any other lottery product - by having them validated at an Iowa Lottery retailer or one of the lottery's regional offices.
An appealing feature of the cards is that players do not have to play through an entire card at once. The battery-powered cards automatically shut off when they haven't been played for 20 seconds, then pick up where they left off when the "play" button is pushed again.
While plans to sell the game cards were approved at a meeting of the Iowa Lottery Board in October 2003, initial discussions of the concept started more than a year before that and led to testing and development.
In late 2002, Stanek, the longest-serving lottery director in the United States and someone who is known for bringing new products to the industry, was approached about the game card and asked if he thought it could be successful in the marketplace.
Stanek said he thought it was a novel concept - one that could appeal to consumers in their 20s and 30s, who grew up with computers and electronic games and are a main force in the electronic age.
Scientific Games International, based in Alpharetta, Ga., produced 20,000 game cards for an Iowa market test that began in October. The lottery sold the cards at about 130 retail locations in the Cedar Rapids, Waterloo/Cedar Falls and Dubuque areas. Results of the market test met the lottery's highest expectations, with all cards sold by early January.
The lottery has ordered 180,000 game cards for Quarter Play's statewide release and has scheduled two more game card games for release in late 2005 and early 2006.