Marco Faravelli, Luca Stanca, School of Economics Discussion Paper No. 412, September 2010, School of Economics, The University of Queensland. Australia.

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This paper shows how to maximize revenue when a contest is noisy. We consider a case where two or more contestants bid for a prize in a stochastic contest with proportional probabilities, where all bidders value the prize equally. We show that by fixing the number of tickets, thus setting a limit to total expenditures, it is possible to maximize the auctioneer’s revenue and obtain (almost) full rent dissipation. We test this hypothesis with a laboratory experiment. The results indicate that, as predicted, revenue is significantly higher in a lottery with rationing than in a standard lottery. On the other hand, an alternative rationing mechanism that does not limit total expenditures fails to increase revenue relative to a standard lottery.