Lottery Advertising

A lottery is a game in which a prize is awarded to the winner by drawing lots. Typically, the odds of winning are low. Players contribute billions of dollars annually to the prizes pool; a portion of that money is used to cover costs and profits; and a percentage is earmarked for public services such as education. The practice of distributing fortunes through the casting of lots has a long record in human history; but the lottery as an organized, commercial venture is relatively recent.

Lottery games are marketed primarily by their potential for wealth creation, and the implication that they offer a chance to change a person’s life in a dramatic way. Many people play for that reason, although the odds are slender. In fact, the biggest winners are almost always those who buy multiple tickets. But, a number of other factors are at work.

One is that people like to gamble. And there is a certain inextricable pleasure in buying a ticket that might bring them riches. Another is that the lottery dangles the prospect of instant riches in an era with limited social mobility, so the idea that someone who plays might finally get a break is compelling.

Moreover, because lotteries are run as businesses with a focus on maximizing revenues, advertising necessarily focuses on persuading specific groups to spend their money. These include convenience store operators (who are the lottery’s main distributors); lottery suppliers (who frequently contribute to state political campaigns); teachers (in states where lottery revenues are earmarked for education); and state legislators.