When the game went on line in February 1988 with a guaranteed $2 million grand prize, it was known as Lotto America. There were just six states-Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Missouri-and the District of Columbia participating. But as of June 1, the state roster had expanded to 19 with Georgia and Connecticut due to join in this summer. Along with D.C., that makes 20 participants.
"The idea was to provide a game for small to midsize states so that they could add a big jackpot game into their product mix," explains Mr. Strutt.
The game wasn't always a winner, however. Its first year was rocky because the game's pick-7-of-40 single prize rules were turning off potential players.
Mr. Strutt and the MSLA realized they had to do some more research. So Mr. Strutt, after going to the playing public for answers, altered the format to a pick 6 of 54, with two draws a week, two plays for $1 and nine prize levels.
The new rules "got us larger jackpots and attracted a lot of attention," Mr. Strutt says. Other states started joining and the game, now called Powerball, really took off.
While the individual states handle their own marketing, MSLA acts as information clearinghouse, passing on successful marketing strategies from one state to the others, and coordinates national PR campaigns.
"Public relations is a big part of lotteries' [marketing] efforts since they are limited to what they can spend on advertising" by state laws, Mr. Strutt says. In Powerball's case, that included press conferences with the winners-a tried-and-true tactic in lottery promotion. Mr. Strutt says ticket sales increase dramatically after each eight-figure payoff.
The game recently launched Powerball Doubler, its first joint promotion, and MSLA is considering a national ad campaign and a 24-hour lottery cable TV channel.
Mr. Strutt says that like the game itself, Powerball's marketing power lies is in its multistate collaboration.
"I've got 20 bosses out there," he says. But "when you get that many minds together, you should be able to come up with some good ideas."