If Greed Can't Sell Your Lottery, How About Altruism?

I was in Seattle last week for a lecture at the Lakeside School, an inspiring place full of very bright people. (It is the alma mater of, among many others, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Po Bronson, and Seth Gordon).

While taking a stroll in the U-Dub neighborhood, I came across this sign for the Washington state lottery. (You can read our earlier posts about the lottery — which are legion — here.) The tag line reads: “Whose world could you change?”

It struck me as a clever come-on for a lottery: whereas appealing to outright greed may be considered a bit tacky for state lotteries, there’s nothing so noble as using your winnings for altruistic purposes, is there?

FWIW, there is room for improvement. Washington is not in the top 10 of per-capita lottery dollars spent. (The top 10 are: Massachusetts, Delaware, Rhode Island, West Virginia, New York, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Michigan.)

There’s also a “no-lose lottery” gaining a bit of ground, which we discussed in a twopart podcast not long ago.


One of their TV ads with the same slogan has a guy building a robotic frisbee thrower for his dog.

Very Seattle.


Strange, in Colorado altruism has always been a part of the pitch, mostly the message that proceeds from your foolishness go to support parks and open space....

Vince Skolny

I don't think this will have any effect on lottery sales; it will only encourage the people that already deny they're buying for greedy reasons.


The latest has indie music and a cute asian girl. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=babc7kixDAs I'm going to be bold; maybe people don't spend money on the lottery here because we're the one of the most literate cities? If you want to generalize further, we're heavily invested in tech up here and we're just too smart to buy lottery tickets.


Altruism, in the basic sense, is also a form of selfishness for you are still after something (or you really think that collective action will make you feel more of a person). In a world now run by created needs, can we assume that 'altruism' was romanticized by market strategists?

Mike B

I have always wondered why states don't allow high taxpaying individuals to have their name applied to the various things that their tax dollars pay for. It might even prompt voluntary increases in tax payments to qualify for a higher tier of name placement.