New York Times and Education lotteries // Lotteries
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New York Times and Education lotteries

The advertisement is one of a crop of toned-down spots that lottery officials are gradually placing on the airwaves, in a striking departure from the amusingly offbeat, ''Hey, you never know'' advertisements that until recently had been widely broadcast to try to lure people into plunking down a few dollars for a chance at winning big.

The change occurred because Gov. George E. Pataki thought the old advertisements - produced by DDB Needham, which also did the new ads - had fostered false expectations with bold promises of easy money. He wanted a new line of spots that were more frank about the odds of winning overnight fortunes and emphasized the lottery's stated goal of raising money for education. ''It has always bothered me to hold up the prospect of instant riches, '' the Governor said.

But critics say the new strategy raises a number of interesting questions: What is the point of spending money on a promotional campaign that does not do much to promote? Why be so coy about the fact that people play games of chance precisely because they want instant wealth? And what does the state gain if ticket sales drop because of the new campaign and thus reduce revenues for education?

Beyond that, the critics say, it is a bit inconsistent, if not hypocritical, for the Governor to bemoan the idea of peddling false hopes at the same time he seeks to raise state revenues with the introduction of a new fast-paced lottery game, called Quick Draw. That game has been criticized as being more akin to casino gambling and more prone to causing pocket-draining abuse.

''There's something political driving this whole thing, '' said Donny Deutsch, the chief executive officer of Deutsch Advertising, a large advertising agency in New York City. ''It's certainly not the correct advertising shift if you want more people to play the lottery.''

The change in New York's strategy comes as lawmakers in other states are also debating the appropriateness of aggressively promoting their lotteries as quick and easy solutions to life's miseries. Recently, for example, Massachusetts cut the State Lottery Commission's advertising budget to $400, 000 this year from $12 million a few years ago.

Nevertheless, lottery agencies remain among the largest and most aggressive advertisers in the country, as cash-starved states become increasingly dependent on their ticket sales.

In the 12 months ended June 1995, the 36 states that operate lotteries spent $372 million on advertising, roughly triple the amount spent a decade earlier, according to La Fleur's 1996 Lottery World Almanac, a trade publication.

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