UPDATE! Apparently, the CD can break in the drive. So if you have an old version of the CD, take it back to your retailer and get the new one, plus a free lottery ticket!

In the spring of 2004, the Oregon Lottery released a new kind of scratch-it, one that had departed from the tradition (the tradition of standing nervously in front of the store clerk, hoping desperately to match 3 like dollar amounts). This new concept was one that would involve something to scratch with, but you would also need a computer to find out if you won.

It was Mini-Golf. Here's the basic premise. Walk into a shop, drop US$2, and get a scratch-it. Then you'd get the CD-ROM with the necessary software for free. You don't really need to play; the retailer can check the ticket for you, but what's the point of that? Then go home, and install the software.

Once it's installed, and Mini-Golf is running, there's a window asking about the parental control feature. This feature was quite pointless, as the "gambling magic" was in the scratch-it, and not on the CD. Go ahead and let your kids play some golf, it's perfectly safe.

You can play with up to 4 people, each with their own ticket (If you don't have enough, losing tickets can be re-used, just don't expect to win.) It asks for some names and ball colors, and then everyone's access code, which can be found by scratching the ticket.

Now, it's time for some golf. Nine holes per ticket, (out of 81 on the disc, play multiple times to see all of them) most of which are par 3, have any number challenges about them. There's several holes that spray water up into the air in spots at timed intervals, and these can block your ball quite effectively. In addition, Mini-Golf also makes gratuitous use of sand traps, which really slow the ball speed down. There's also an assortment of jumps, puddles of water here and there, and the occasional pipe leading elsewhere in the hole. Also, each hole has a large amount of edges, making simple geometry near-impossible.

Hitting the ball is very simple. Rotate the mouse in a circle to position the putter behind the ball, drag it back for force, and release. The ball then goes. Whether it goes into the hole or not is up to you and your skill.

However, whether or not you win any cash is not up to you and your skill.The scratch-it and CD-ROM state that quite often: "Your chances of winning are not affected by how well you play."

After each hole, you'll see a ball come from any one of nine pipes, through a pipe maze, and out the bottom, to land in any one of six groups of three tees each. These tees are labeled $2, $3, $5, $10, $100, and $10,000. There are three tees, so what it boils down to is that you're playing the same old scratch-it. Except you're playing it at your computer and not in front of a clerk, and you have 3 more dollar amounts to match. (One for each hole. Most tickets of this nature only have 6 amounts.)

But even at a $2 price, and the chance of winning more money, I still think it's a good deal, because you get to play Mini-Golf too. However, the odds of winning are 1:2.47. I have played 6 times. I have not won once.

Also, coming in the summer of 2004, Solitaire Riches will be availiable for play, but I haven't heard much about it.