Lottery Advertising Targets Specific Groups of Potential Players

In a nation where people spend $100 billion a year on lottery tickets, the state-sanctioned promotion of gambling raises questions about its role and costs. As a business that is designed to maximize revenue, lottery advertising necessarily targets specific groups of potential players, such as convenience store customers (who buy the most tickets); suppliers (who contribute heavily to state political campaigns); teachers (in states where lottery proceeds are earmarked for education); and state legislators, who quickly become accustomed to the extra funds.

Lotteries have long been a staple of the state’s financial system, with their popularity often tied to the perception that they benefit a particular public good, such as education. This is especially true in periods of economic stress, when lotteries can be used as a substitute for higher taxes or cuts in other programs. But studies have shown that the objective fiscal health of a state does not have much impact on whether or when it adopts a lottery.

Lottery revenues grow rapidly after a lottery is introduced, but eventually begin to level off or even decline. To maintain or increase revenues, the industry continually introduces new games. These innovations have changed the nature of lottery play from a traditional raffle to an instant-win format. Despite these changes, the basic structure of the lottery remains fairly constant: people pay to enter a draw and hope that they will win. But if they do, they must share the prize with anyone who also purchased a ticket.