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Are Lottery Ads 'Bloated And Annoying' Or Essential?

Anoutside audit lauds the North Carolina Education Lottery for keeping costs down and boosting profits every year since 2007. But that may not be enough to ward off new restrictions state lawmakers have in mind for the lottery. 

Governor Pat McCrory thinks the state lottery spends too much money on administrative costs.  And don't even get him started about the commercials which he called, "bloated and frankly annoying" during his state of the state address last month. 

"Annoying" is a matter of taste.  But on the "bloated" front, a new audit by Wisconsin-based Delehanty Consulting found North Carolina actually spends less per capita on lottery advertising than neighboring states.

Consultant Herb Delehanty says it's common for state lawmakers to want less money spent on ads and more on the cause the lottery supports - which is education in North Carolina's case.  But that's a little like starving the cow you want to milk.

Credit nc-educationlottery.org
Annoying or effective? This North Carolina Education Lottery ad features cheerleaders and a guy on a treadmill.

"We're a sales and marketing organization," says North Carolina Education Lottery executive director Alice Garland.  Her job is to maximize profits for education.

To do that, "we need to advertise," says Garland. "I hear, 'Well everybody knows we have a lottery.' Well everybody knows there's a Target and a Walmart but they advertise all the time. When you're in the retail sales business, you need to keep your product in front of your players – your customers."

Last year the North Carolina Education Lottery spent $14.6 million on commercials and Garland says would probably have spent more. But she couldn't because state law limits lottery advertising to one percent of total sales.  

While Governor McCrory talks of trimming that ratio, some 50 state representatives have signed onto a bill further restricting where the lottery can advertise – and what those ads can say. The measure's not-so-subtle title is the "Honest Lottery Act."