Lottery Advertising Targets Certain Groups of People

Lottery is a popular way for people to try and win money. It has some real benefits for society — it raises significant amounts of money for states. But it also encourages people to gamble, often with big stakes and even bigger dreams of becoming rich overnight. And, in the end, the odds are that most people will lose.

Lotteries are run like businesses, with a focus on maximizing revenues. And that means that their advertising necessarily targets certain groups of people to convince them to spend money on tickets. It’s a tricky strategy. The lottery doesn’t exactly have a great track record in terms of supporting the poor or solving problem gambling, and it may be at cross-purposes with the state’s broader role in promoting social welfare.

One of the ways that lottery ads target specific groups is by promoting “significant dates” — numbers like children’s birthdays or ages, sequences that have already been played by many people (like 1-2-3-4-5-6), or special symbols that are associated with events, such as sports teams or movies. When you select those kinds of numbers, you’re likely to split the prize with other ticketholders who picked the same ones.

This is an important message because state lottery programs rely heavily on a small group of very committed players who spend disproportionately high percentages of their incomes on tickets. The rest of the population plays less frequently, and their contributions to state revenue are much lower.