The following is an ethical criticism of lottery advertising. It will be argued that such campaigns often promote with misleading information, they epitomize government hypocrisy with respect to the ‘purpose’ of lottery, and lastly, they internationally target the poor and vulnerable community to stimulate volume sales. The concept of lottery advertising will also be applied to an ethical framework to support what is argued.
The Promotion of State Lotteries: In the following section, various issues related to the content of lottery advertisements will be briefly discussed, as well as how they often violate a couple of specific ethical tests. Errors of Commission1: the content of many lottery advertisements create a false belief in the mind of the consumer. Ads typically present the concept of lottery as a miracle financial remedy or a quick fix to poverty. The content of the ad, for example “think what you could do with mass millions”,2 as well as the location of the ad itself (usually poor living quarters) follow that purpose. Anti-Work Theme: Lottery also discourages work, which is detrimental to society and ultimately, the economy. In effect, lottery promotions illustrate a life in which you can earn substantially without working, often denigrating those who are forced to work for a living.3 This idea can- and will likely impair economic growth in the long-term. Social-Washing: Finally, lottery advertisers are often accused of “social-washing” their campaigns.4 Many of their advertisements exploit the charitable aspect of the lottery to motivate sales. An example is the emphasis of the contribution made to education, when in reality; lottery revenues are often used for other funds.5 Using slogans like “Our schools win, too” (California lottery) are an attempt to socially wash the consumer into trusting misleading information.
Russo, J.E., B. Metcalf and D. Stephens (1981) “Identifying Misleading Advertising”, Journal of Consumer research, Sept. Smith, N.C., & Lee, R., The Massachusetts Lottery. Harvard Business School p. 7, Exhibit 1 Advertisement for Mass Millions 3 2 Karcher A.J. (1989) in Lotteries, “Work is always shown as something that lacks dignity and purpose. Work in those ads, is Smith, N.C., & Lee, R., The Massachusetts Lottery. Harvard Business School p. 7, Exhibit 1 Advertisement for Mass Millions 3 Karcher A.J. (1989) in Lotteries, “Work is always shown as something that lacks dignity and purpose. Work in those ads, is depicted to as menial, unfulfilling and unrewarding” 4 Smith, N.C., & Lee, R., p. 4 (end) and beginning of p5 5 (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=762) 2 1
Errors of Omission: By intentionally omitting the odds of winning, lottery advertisers are also guilty of abuses of omission. The intention is to convince customers that they can get rich quickly and easily, whereas, in reality, the odds of winning a cash-prize are miniscule.6 Because of the complexity of current lotteries, providing odds information would still not allow customers to make completely informed decisions, even for well-educated players. 7 Essentially, advertisements intentionally omit pertinent and crucial information to lure volume sales. This is largely because many marketers know that when adequate and complete information regarding the expected value of a lottery ticket is presented to consumers, fewer tickets would be sold.8 Ethical tests: The special obligations test: The National Association’s Code of Ethics implies a specific series of ‘special obligations’ with which all lottery advertisements must comply. In effect, advertisements are meant to...