Lottery Advertising


Lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn to determine prize amounts. It has long been a popular way to raise money for public works projects, townships and colleges. Its origins date back to ancient times. The drawing of lots to determine ownership or other rights is recorded in the Bible, and its use for material gain began to grow in popularity in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. By the 17th century, colonial-era America had several state-sponsored lotteries. In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery to finance cannons for defense of Philadelphia and Thomas Jefferson sponsored a private lottery to relieve his crushing debts.

In the 1970s, new innovations dramatically transformed the lottery industry. The most significant change was the introduction of games that do not require a waiting period between the purchase of a ticket and the drawing of a winning number. These “instant” games have higher prize amounts but lower odds of winning than passive drawing games. Many of these games are staged in partnership with brand-name companies and feature sports teams, celebrities and cartoon characters as prizes.

Because state lotteries operate as businesses, with a focus on maximizing revenues, their advertising necessarily focuses on persuading consumers to spend their money. As a result, lottery advertising may sometimes be at cross-purposes with the general public interest. In addition, state governments that operate lotteries are dependent on their revenues in an era of anti-tax sentiment. This dependency creates a temptation to increase the size of jackpots and thus attract more people.