The Problems of Lottery Advertising

Lottery is a form of gambling wherein participants choose numbers and hope to win a prize. While some people enjoy it for the entertainment value, others find it psychologically harmful and addictive. Some states prohibit or regulate it, while others promote it as a way to raise money for state projects and services. In the latter case, lottery advertisements frequently emphasize the benefits that the money raised will have for schools and other public institutions, in a manner that critics say distorts the truth about the extent to which lottery revenues will help these needs.

Lotteries have broad popular appeal and are easy to organize. However, they also have significant drawbacks: they often produce large winners with unequal amounts of money, they encourage risk-taking among the poor (in addition to those who spend their entire income on tickets), and they are prone to corruption. Many of the same problems that plague commercial casino gaming can be found in state-sponsored lotteries. These include the tendency for operators to target the same groups of potential customers and to market games based on their popularity with those groups; the difficulty in separating out problem gamblers from the general population; and the tendency to develop a variety of specific constituencies: convenience store owners (whose advertising often emphasizes the low odds of winning); lottery suppliers (whose heavy contributions to state political campaigns are regularly reported); teachers (in states where lottery revenues are earmarked for education) and state legislators, who quickly become accustomed to the additional revenue.

In addition to the obvious questions about the impact of lottery marketing on the poor and problem gamblers, it is important to examine whether the state should be in the business of running a lottery. Critics point out that the promotion of this type of gambling conflicts with the state’s broader responsibilities to provide public goods and protect the health, welfare and safety of its citizens. In fact, the proliferation of lotteries is often viewed by state officials as a threat to other types of state-sponsored gambling, such as commercial casino games.

HACA conducts a lottery to select applicants for our housing assistance programs. Regardless of when you applied or your preference points, your chances of being selected for the lottery are the same as anyone else’s. If you are selected for the lottery, you will be added to our wait list. If you are not selected, you can reapply next time the lottery opens. If you have any questions about the lottery, please contact us. We’d be happy to discuss the process with you.