A Social Landslide: Social Inequalities of Lottery Advertising in Taiwan

Article excerpt

Lotteries have become a popular means for governments to generate funds for their national coffers in many parts of the world. However, some researchers have been concerned about the negative effects that lottery frenzy can have on individuals. As observed by Henze (1997), millions of people happily stand in line each day to buy a ticker, making lotteries a form of painless tax or voluntary taxation. The distributional burden of lottery is arguably taken on by the poor, which leads to a form of regressive tax (i.e., the tax paid as a percentage of income is higher for people with a low income than those with a high income) (e.g., Hansen, Miyazaki, & Sprott, 2000; Miyazaki, Hansen, & Sprott, 1998).

Lottery advertising is regarded as a significant contributor to lottery growth. Clotfelter and Cook (1989) include an informative chapter on lottery advertising in their book Selling Hope. Advertising marketers endeavor to increase the numbers of lottery players not only through enticing new customers to play, but also through stimulating current players to purchase more. Recent studies suggest that--to attract customers to purchase--lottery marketing focuses on psychological tendencies and weaknesses as well as on misconceptions, internal and external loci of control, and counterfactual thinking (Landman & Petty, 2000; Miyazaki, Brumbaugh, & Sprott, 2001; Rogers & Webley, 2001). Social aspects of lottery advertising from the public perception require attention but remain an uncharted area of empirical research. The objectives of this study were to provide an examination of lottery tax regressivity (Clotfelter, 1979; Miyazaki et al., 1998) and further clarify how people of differing socioeconomic status (SES) may or may not be influenced by lottery advertising. Whether or not lottery purchase is contingent on influences of lottery advertising is firstly examined. The second question addressed was whether or not advertising effects are different between people who purchase lottery and those who do not across lottery games with different payoffs. The third question was whether or not advertising effects could be different for individuals according to their SES and could lead to social inequalities among lottery players (i.e., people with lower SES could tend to be influenced more by lottery advertising than those with higher SES).


One major criticism of lottery marketing is its advertising (Borg & Stranahan, 2005; Clotfelter & Cook, 1989). The vast majority of people have probably been exposed to all forms of lottery advertising through television, newspapers, radio, posters, magazines, and signage. One observation made by Clotfelter and Cook (1989) is that the majority of lottery advertisements focus on winning and fantasies of winning. Similar criticisms are that lotteries undermine the value of hard work, leading to indolence and social problems (Borg & Stranahan, 2005; Stearns & Borna, 1995). Many lottery advertisements emphasize good fortune over hard work and instant gratification over prudent investment. The idea that the lottery is an investment in the future can be particularly problematic when targeted at populations that can least afford to play (Radecki, 1994). Discussions on influences of misleading and deceptive advertising appear in columns of newspapers, magazines, and research articles and in many countries, questioning the legality and social responsibility of lottery advertising in many countries (Chou, 2002; "Clean Up", 1993; Karcher, 1989; Shenk, 1995). Among these, the most debated issue is that lottery advertisements would encourage the culture of gambling. The notion that one can beat the odds and the myth that gambling is good for society in general, have been propagated through those positive slogans misleading viewers by ignoring the addictive or compulsive nature of the games (Burns, Gillett, Rubinstein, & Genty, 1990; Rogers & Webley, 2001). …