Public Relations and the State Lottery

A state lottery is a form of gambling run by a government. Generally, each ticket costs one dollar and the winner is given a prize. The prizes are chosen at random and the chances of winning are not equal for all players. The lottery’s main function is to generate profit for the sponsoring state. In the late twentieth century, as states struggled to balance their budgets in an anti-tax era, lotteries became a popular way to bring in much needed revenue without raising taxes.

According to a recent Gallup poll, about half of American adults buy lottery tickets. But these games prey disproportionately on poor people who can least afford to spend their hard-earned money on them.

Despite the ubiquity of lotteries, few studies have examined how they operate in real-life. To fill this gap, the authors of this article visited and analyzed lotteries in 45 states and Washington, D.C. Their report is based on more than 1,000 interviews, observations and analysis of lottery advertising and promotions in both rural and urban settings.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with additional support from the U.S. Institute of Peace. The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of their many collaborators and contributors.

The director shall engage an independent firm experienced in the analysis of marketing, promotion, public relations, incentives and public disclosures of odds and numbers of winners in state lottery games to conduct a study of the effectiveness of communications activities by the state lottery to determine the best way to promote lottery activities and make recommendations to the commission, Governor and Legislative Assembly. The study shall be completed by September 1 of each year.