Role of The National Gambling Impact Study Commission in Lottery Advertisig

Lottery advertising is also manipulative when it encourages players to play the lottery in order to contribute to state programs. Because lottery revenues are often earmarked for specific purposes, such as education, lottery advertising sometimes exploits the idea that playing the lottery can make you “feel good.” This message implies that buying a lottery ticket is akin to supporting social programs, with the added benefit that you could become a millionaire yourself in the process. One video clip presented to the Commission emphasized that lottery dollars provide education and job training, encouraging the idea that by playing the lottery, a gambler can help other people improve their lives. 75

There is also concern that lottery ads target particularly vulnerable populations, specifically youth and the poor. Some lottery ads presented to the Commission showed young people playing the lottery. 76 The appeal of such images, and the illegality of underage lottery purchases in most states, raises justifiable concerns about the role of state governments as a promoter and participant in this type of gambling promotion.

The concern over lottery marketing themes and messages prompted several states to place restriction on what kind of advertising its lottery agency could do. In particular, Virginia, Minnesota, and Wisconsin ban ads designed to induce people to play. A few other states require odds of winning to be displayed or ads to be accurate and not misleading. 77

Time for an Advertising ‘Pause’
Underlying the legal arguments for and against the ban on gambling advertising are larger questions about the relationship between commercial speech and legalized behavior. While many states have legalized gambling activity, some states continue to support the ban on advertising for that very activity. In addition, some states actively promote their lotteries while continuing to support the ban on gambling advertising for commercial casinos. Although contradictory on the surface, conflicting policies are often the product of incremental decisionmaking rather than uncertainty. It is important that states ensure that their gambling policies and regulations match their objectives while simultaneously protecting the public interest.

This Commission is aware that the legal landscape may change with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Greater New Orleans case. This Commission is preparing for the possibility of the Supreme Court lifting the advertising ban. If the ban is lifted, there could be a proliferation of gambling advertising across the United States. Given this rare advertising “pause” prior to the Court’s decision, this Commission has an opportunity and responsibility to address the issue of gambling advertising. One suggestion is the adoption of a “best practices” paradigm for gambling advertising, possibly modeled after the guidelines created by both the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries and the American Gaming Association (see Attachments A, B, and C at the end of this chapter).

3.1 The Commission recommends to state governments and the federal government that states are best equipped to regulate gambling within their own borders with two exceptions— tribal and Internet gambling. (See separate recommendations on tribal and Internet gambling in their respective chapters.)
3.2 The Commission recommends that all legal gambling should be restricted to those who are at least 21 years of age and that those who are under 21 years of age should not be allowed to loiter in areas where gambling activity occurs.
3.3 The Commission recommends that gambling “cruises to nowhere” should be prohibited unless the state from which the cruise originates adopts legislation specifically legalizing such cruises consistent with existing law.
3.4 The Commission recommends that warnings regarding the dangers and risks of gambling, as well as the odds where feasible, should be posted in prominent locations in all gambling facilities.

75 Ibid. 76 Ibid. 77 State Lotteries at the Turn of the Century: Report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. Charles T. Clotfelter, Philip J. Cook, Julie A. Edell and Marion Moore, April 1, 1999.