Lottery Runs Questionable Ads
Special Report - May 31, 2011
As the North Carolina Lottery enters its sixth year of operation, its advertising practices are raising eyebrows across the state. The lottery legislation that passed in 2005 restricts the lottery’s ability to advertise by stating, “no advertising may have the primary purpose of inducing persons to participate in the lottery.” The lottery’s recent TV advertising campaigns have expanded to include celebrity pro wrestler Ric Flair with his signature “Wooooo,” and a rock band singing “big bucks, quick bucks, big old bucks, mega bucks” with large colorful words like “Jumbo Bucks” and “Bucks, bucks, bucks” scrolling across the TV screen. These ads have led some to question whether the lottery’s bolder and more aggressive advertising crosses the line for what is allowed under the law.
According to the lottery’s 2010 fiscal year report, the lottery spent nearly $11.8 million on advertising in fiscal year 2010, up from $11.2 in 2009. Those advertising dollars included participating in 28 college and professional sporting events and sponsorships, offering players the chance to win a Ford Mustang and Harley-Davidson, and sending winners of “The Price is Right®” and “World Series of Poker®” games to Las Vegas to play more games. Last year was a record year for the lottery, which brought in $1.421 billion in ticket sales at more than 6,200 retail locations across North Carolina.
Alice Garland, the lottery’s executive director told the News & Observer that the lottery makes “certain that our ads don’t say, ‘play this game’ or ‘you will win’ or show limousines or big houses or sacks of money.” She went on to state that the lottery follows “guidelines of using comedy or humor to make players aware that we have games,” and emphasized that advertising is considered “critical to the success of a sales organization, which is what [the lottery is].” According to the lottery’s two-year strategic plan for 2011-2012, “no more than one percent” of the lottery’s budget is or will be spent on advertising.
“The lottery is premised on separating North Carolinians from their hard-earned dollars,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “For decades, the North Carolina Family Policy Council and other gambling opponents have warned that the lottery is nothing but a regressive tax. As people wise up, and become less willing to waste much of their hard-earned dollars on the long odds of hitting it big, the lottery will be forced to engage in more aggressive advertising to keep encouraging people to play. And that is exactly the trend we have seen. The lottery has been exceeding the law with ads designed to get more people to play.”
Study Says Lottery Entices the Poor - January 7, 2011
Study Helps Lotteries Improve Marketing - April 14, 2009
Lottery Seeks Expansion into Hispanic Market - December 5, 2008
Lottery Would Use Children to Promote Gambling - February 11, 2008
Lottery Officials Attempt to Boost Sales - November 30, 2007
UNC President Calls for End to Lottery Advertising - July 11, 2007
Lottery Advertising - February 27, 2006
Lottery Ads and Logo - February 22, 2006
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