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On Google Pay, India is paying and playing — the good old lottery game

G-Pay has brought back the nostalgia associated with scratch cards. It makes you mimic the motion of scratching via swiping.

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Not all app swiping is to find a suitable date these days. There’s a lot of scratching and swiping to win the lottery too. Except, Google Pay is this generation’s lottery obsession.

Gone are the days when you would use a coin to erase the grey ink to test your fortune. Or when you would buy a ticket and buy the lottery newspapers and finger through the winner numbers.

Today’s scratch cards are now on a mobile screen and they require more swiping than scratching.

After Google Pay or G-Pay quickly became the preferred digital wallet option compared to the KYC-burdened PayTM, its scratch card offers have become immensely popular. Every time you use the app to make a payment above Rs 150, you get a little blue scratch card accompanied by a confetti effect — just in case you forgot that it was a cause for celebration. Except, it’s not.

You’re more likely to find pop-ups like “better luck next time” when you swipe the scratch card open, or Rs 15 at best. The maximum you can earn is approximately Rs 150 but that really only happens if you’ve rubbed your screen with a four-leaf clover. And from a rational point of view, that’s not much of a ‘win’ given that Rs 150 is the minimum spend that will make you eligible for earning the card in the first place.

So why are people getting excited over poor odds?

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Playing the game

G-Pay’s scratch cards are an obvious incentive to get people to use the app more, but the reason it has gained popularity is because it’s modelled over the good ol’ lottery.

Back in the day, you could buy a scratch card for a nominal amount at a local grocery store or you could get it with a packet of chips. The latter is more prevalent in India, unlike national lotteries such as the US’ Powerball or Singapore’s Toto.

With national lotteries, you have an idea of the sample size you are competing with. However, if you opt for scratch cards marketed by a company, you don’t know how many other customers are in competition, or how many cards are in circulation. But then again, does this lack of clarity matter when you’re gambling? Well, no. Research suggests that a low-chance at winning a jackpot is nothing more than a psychological hook. A paper by International Gambling Studies titled ‘The psychology of lottery gambling’ states “a general ignorance of probability theory” and “entrapment” as the reasons for lottery gambling.

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G-Pay has brought back the nostalgia associated with scratch cards. It makes you mimic the motion of scratching via swiping. Mimicking motion is the same concept used by picture editing apps that make you shake your phone to apply a Polaroid effect.

G-Pay’s scratch cards are fun because they keep you engaged, sometimes over a long period of time. When you make a payment of Rs 500 or more, you get a red card that can only be opened at a future date, say a week or two from your payment. Now, that engages you to stick around and use the app.

Often, you’ll get a coupon with a red card like ‘50% off Swiggy voucher’ or ‘5% off MakeMyTrip’ which is a genius sub-scam as most of these are time-bound coupons that can expire if you don’t acknowledge them in time.

Even if you’ve read this entire article as a G-Pay user who doesn’t actively use the app for scratch cards, I’d ask you one question — if you got one, would you not open it?

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