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Lottery launches ads after poll finds low gambling literacy for young players

Illinois Lottery

Following a study that found some Illinois Lottery players, particularly young ones, had a poor understanding of the nature of gambling — like that you shouldn’t bank a paycheck on the lottery — the state is launching a campaign to help players make more “informed decisions” when playing.

The study found 63.4 percent of players polled — ages 18 to 24 — had a low level of gambling literacy, meaning they didn’t understand that gambling isn’t a good way to make money; that if you gamble more often, it won’t necessarily mean you’ll win more than you lose or that your chances of winning don’t get better after you’ve lost.

Players older than 65 had the best gambling literacy in the state. In total, the study found players had a good understanding of what it takes to play responsibly but had a limited understanding of the odds of winning and the probability involved.

The online survey of 1,000 Illinois players was conducted in 2017 and included Illinois residents over 18 who had played the lottery within the last year.

A $230,000 Illinois Lottery campaign — launching Monday — will feature social media posts, in-store messaging and paid advertising to drive players to the Illinois Lottery’s website. The goal is to teach players about common myths. And the lottery plans to do further research after the campaign to see if it makes a difference in gaming literacy.

Messages will include, “Set a limit, Stick to it,” as well as “Play for fun. Not funds,” and “Remember, it’s a game of chance.”

The lottery website will also dispel some myths like that there’s no such thing as a “lucky touch,” and winnings are completely random, with no guaranteed rate on a ticket.

“We try to have short, sharp messages you’ll see on billboards and also on social media, followed up by this sort of myth busting messaging that you can find on the website,” said Colin Hadden, the general manager of Camelot Illinois, the new private manager of the Illinois Lottery.

Retailers will also get pamphlets for players that might have a problem or that they’re concerned about.

“Our old message was ‘Play responsibly.’ Our new message is ‘Be smart, play smart.’ You’ll see that on print advertising and in retail,” Illinois Lottery Acting Director Harold Mays said of the campaign. “So it’s subliminal, but it’s in your face all the time.”

It stems from independent research commissioned by the Illinois Lottery that tested the “Positive Play Scale,” which measures honesty and control, pre-commitment, personal responsibility and gambling literacy.

Based on the survey, Illinois lottery players scored the lowest in gambling literacy, which prompted the campaign. And the campaign coincides with March being the National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

The Sun-Times asked Mays what he sees as the “nature of gambling,” which is what respondents were asked.

“It should be for fun,” Mays said. “We don’t want people to abuse the activity, to take advantage of the game in a detrimental way.”

Hadden noted the Lottery brings in over 54 percent of gaming revenue to the state.

Meanwhile, as the Illinois Lottery may play a key role in the state’s sports betting expansion proposals, Mays referred all questions about the lottery’s potential involvement in the plan to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

One of four proposals unveiled on Thursday by state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago, would give the Illinois Lottery authority over all the state’s sports betting operations. Another option is for the Illinois Gaming Authority to oversee regulation. Legislators plan to dole out the proposals within the next few weeks.

When asked if he’s part of negotiating the new proposals, Mays said, “negotiating is a strong word.”

“It’s very early,” Mays said.

Even so, Pritzker has said he’s banking on expansion of sports betting to get the state $200 million in revenue for the next fiscal year. And state lawmakers would have to pass a sports betting bill by May to get that money.