Bob's Links and Rants

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Monday, January 13, 2003

Kudos to the Michigan lottery. I've always detested state lotteries, and still pretty much do. And one of the main things that I've always hated is that they use one pitch to sell it to the legislature (money for schools, usually), but as soon as it is passed they sell it to the gullible public as a get-rich-quick scheme. Every ad that I had ever seen for lotteries in several states had always been to hype the prizes, and to encourage buying tickets with change. The odds, which by gambling standards are terrible (state lotteries usually pay back about 50%, while casinos and horse or dog tracks typically pay back over 90%), are mentioned in the tiniest of print, and the supposed benefits for schools are rarely mentioned at all. I remember one ad I saw in Illinois where a bunch of construction workers were eating lunch and discussing their investments. One guy says "my stocks have been going up." The next one says "bonds are more secure." Then the third one says "I just invested a dollar, and I could get $6 million back. Any of your investments that good?" It was the worst sort of deception, being undertaken by the state government. I've always thought that lotteries should be forced to advertise themselves as charities, like church raffles.

And finally, after 30 years or so of state lotteries, Michigan is finally running ads that do that. I couldn't find the exact ad copy from their web site, but the gist of their new ad campaign is "The Michigan Lottery. Play for fun. Play for our schools. Play for our future." Not even a suggestion of get-rich-quick. I still won't be buying lottery tickets, and I don't recommend that you do, but I'm for once not embarrassed by ads for my state's lottery.