Lottery Marketing Mistakes

There are a lot of things lottery marketers do that make their games attractive, but the biggest is dangling the promise of instant riches in an age of inequality and limited social mobility. That’s why the jackpot-sized billboards you see on highways grab your attention. They have a certain appeal that can’t be denied, and it’s no wonder they attract millions of players.

But that’s not all there is to lottery marketing, and it can be misleading. It also promotes a false image of the likelihood of winning the prize (the odds of hitting a particular number are often misrepresented) and inflates the actual value of the money won (lotto jackpot prizes usually get paid in annual installments over 20 years, with inflation and taxes dramatically eroding its current value).

Lottery proceeds are also marketed as a painless form of taxation by conveying the message that even if you don’t win, you’re doing good for your state. It’s a message that wins wide approval, even in times of economic stress. But that doesn’t mean the lottery is an effective instrument of public finance, and it certainly shouldn’t be considered as a substitute for addressing basic public needs.

Moreover, the distribution of lottery players is skewed, with disproportionate numbers of low-income and less educated residents playing the game. As a result, a substantial portion of the lottery’s revenue is spent on state programs and administrative costs that benefit those communities least in need of its funds.