Treasurer predicting campaign will bring in extra $25M
The Massachusetts Lottery embarks on an ambitious $5 million advertising campaign on Monday, with Lottery officials hoping to draw new players with a series of television, radio, newspaper and billboard ads that will appear through June.
The "Jackpot Awareness" campaign will stress the Lottery's role in raising money for cities and towns, a claim that was somewhat undercut last year when Gov. Mitt Romney and legislators diverted nearly $150 million in Lottery revenues to the state's general fund.
The campaign will target casual players when jackpots reach high levels, said State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who oversees the Lottery.
The spots, produced by Boston ad agency Hill, Holliday, are the first new ones in nearly a decade for the Lottery, which lost its advertising budget in the 1990s amid legislative criticism that poor people were being suckered.
The $5 million campaign, which will run through June, is expected to generate an additional $25 million in revenue, Cahill said.
He said the campaign will emphasize the multi-state Mega Millions and other lotto games in which winners are determined by a drawing, as opposed to scratch tickets and the Keno video game. Scratch tickets and Keno are by far the biggest money producers for the Lottery.
"The real focus is to drive those (lotto drawing) revenues up because they represent such a small portion, about 5 percent, of all our revenue," Cahill said.
The campaign's concession to the fact that 2 to 5 percent of gamblers develop addictions will be a disclaimer that says, "Please play responsibly."
Kathleen Scanlan, executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, applauded the Lottery for including the disclaimer. Roughly one in five of the 2,000 to 3,000 calls to the council's help line are from gamblers who identify the Lottery as a problem for them.
The Lottery, the nation's second-largest with $4.18 billion in annual sales, is the greatest source of state aid to cities and towns.
But last year, Romney and legislators capped Lottery revenues going to cities and towns at $661 million, diverting the remainder of last year's $803 million in profits to the general fund.
Cahill said the cap threatens to undermine the Lottery's biggest selling point: that profits go directly to cities and towns to pay for school teachers, police officers and other municipal expenses.
"If we can work toward lifting the cap as times get better, that will play into our refrain that this is where the money goes," Cahill said.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association is also urging state officials to stop diverting Lottery money to the general fund.
"I would suggest that since the Lottery's inception in the 1970s, the general public understands that the Lottery was established to offset high property taxes in cities and towns," said Pat Mikes, the association's communications director. "People understand that it helps their communities."
Cahill said the Lottery's net profits are up $11.5 million for the first half of the current fiscal year.
Cahill said he expects some criticism of the fact that the Lottery is advertising its products. However, since the departure of former Senate President Thomas Birmingham, there are no major critics of Lottery advertising in the State House.
"I'm sure there's going to be someone in the building who will do that," Cahill said. "But if they look at the ads and they see it, I think they'll see we tried to handle it tastefully."
Cahill said publicity plays a demonstrable role in boosting sales, adding that advertising is common in others states. New York, for example, spends about $70 million on lottery advertising.
Media stories about huge jackpots drive up sales, as did 30-second radio spots that ran for two weeks during the holidays, a precursor to the larger ad campaign to begin Monday, Cahill said.
"You really have to talk about your product to make people aware of it," said Joseph C. Sullivan, who runs the day-to-day operations of the Lottery at its Braintree headquarters. "And from that, generate revenue for your winners and then cities and towns."