The National Lottery has been well served by the PR people. Some of the more memorable adverts on the broadcast media have been dreamt up by these people. One of my favourites is the "Rainbow" advert (it be viewed here). That advert puts me in a good mood.
What do people buy when they buy a National Lottery ticket? Food for the mind. It gives some potential to their dreams. They don't have to win to enjoy the ticket. From the moment of purchase, they can daydream about what they will do if/when they win. The PR people know they are selling these dreams. Consider the adverts that asked "What is the first thing you would do with the money? (view here). By buying a lottery ticket you add a little more substance to your dreams.
In one of my favourite pieces of his work, Tomas Schelling deals with similar issues. In "The Mind as a Consuming Organ", Schelling explores the nature of consumption. He starts by asking what we do when we consume fiction. He said allows us to "forget and forget that we are forgetting". This is not a criticism. At least, it is not a criticism of others. Schelling even forgives himself for his capacity to daydream.
The National Lottery sells a dream. However, it is not the part of the National Lottery that economists and other academics tend to focus on. I have written here and elsewhere about the political bias in the allocation of National Lottery funded sport funding (see here or here). Colleagues of mine have written about the National Lottery as a regressive tax (see here). Not exactly good PR for the lottery.
Given the 30th anniversary, it might be worth following a Schelling-type perspective and allow the PR people their head. A lottery ticket feeds the mind and the imagination.