Lottery advertising and the rules and regulations that control it
The advertising industry provides creative services to the business community to come up with new wild, wonderful, and hopefully extremely effective advertising media to sell their clients’ products and services. Without pushing any legal lines, some of the commercials and print ads can be a bit controversial at times, either created by the ad agency itself, or supplied by the client. Sometimes that works in a company’s favour and sometimes it does not. But as long as the advertising is within legal limits, almost anything goes.
However, with advertising in the gaming industry, print ads and radio/television commercials are highly regulated by the state or provincial gaming authority. There are so many restrictions on lottery ads that both the operator and any ad agency have to be very careful what they produce with an ad so as to not break any of those restrictions. Doing so invites not only large financial penalties but also might include prison time.
The following restrictions do not necessarily apply to all jurisdictions on the planet, as variations within ad regulations may vary slightly or majorly, but these following restrictions are very common among many gaming regulators. For instance, no celebrities can be used to promote a lottery so that there is absolutely no suggestion that playing the lottery has contributed to the celebrity's success in any way. This keeps the influence and perception a celebrity might give to encourage gambling out of the picture and keeps the ads more neutral in tone. Ads cannot use characters, behaviour, fashion, appearance, language, images, or any other factors that may have any type of influence on or appeal to people under 18 years old. Even colours, music, and sounds have to carefully selected and used so as to not appeal to minors in any way.
Ads are also not allowed to suggest that complex or higher bets require more intelligence or skill than straight or lower bets, so there is no suggestion that those who place complex bets have more intelligence and more control over the outcome of the draw than those who place straight bets. Other restrictions include not showing unrealistic depictions of players winning often or early, and using humour to soften the risks of gambling. Also, ads cannot imply that playing the lottery is required in order to fulfill any family or social obligations, solve personal problems, or promote the lottery as an alternative to employment, financial investment, or for financial security. Gaming ads can show people having fun playing the lottery, even winning a prize, but can’t show any relation to playing the lottery or winning a prize as an alternative to other life events and obligations.
The gaming regulators take lottery advertising very seriously and some jurisdictions even require all advertisement to be submitted for approval before release. They want to ensure that the ads promote the lottery in an effective positive manner as a means of entertainment only, with the “bonus” of possibly winning a prize.
Lottery ads can be an effective way to promote the lottery and bring new players into the industry, but can’t target minors, those with gambling issues, or those who think gambling is a lifestyle. The lottery can be promoted as a way of entertainment but not as lifestyle alternative.
Next time you see or hear a lottery ad, take note of the words, tone, images, and music they use, and remember that for that ad to get on the air, it had to satisfy all the regulations imposed by the gaming regulator.