Lotto jackpot inspires New Year fantasies

December 28, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Tens of thousands of Marylanders are dreaming of a belated Christmas present -- and a very Happy New Year.

The stuff of which their dreams are made? Tickets to tomorrow's $21 million Maryland Lotto jackpot, which matches the largest payoff in state lottery history.

Regular players are increasing the number of tickets they buy to improve their chances of winning and occasional players are moving to get in on the action.

Lottery outlets braced yesterday for a repeat of last week's Christmas Eve and Christmas Day rush, when customers lined up for bread, milk -- and Lotto tickets.

"Usually I buy only one ticket. Today, it's six tickets," Stanley Gondzar said yesterday at a Royal Farm store in Hampden.

Mr. Gondzar, a 33-year-old hotel worker, has never won Lotto but said he feels lucky. "You gotta win once. It might as well be this time," he said.

Across town, at another Royal Farm store on Harford Road in Hamilton, Joe Busky, a 26-year-old accountant, bought three $1 tickets -- "all the money I have with me."

"I only play when the jackpot gets above 9 or 10 million. It gets my attention more," said Mr. Busky, who would do "a lot of traveling" if he hits the jackpot.

Tomorrow's Lotto total reached $21 million when no ticket holder matched the six numbers in Saturday's $18 million drawing.

A $21 million record was set by the Lotto drawing on Aug. 10, 1991, when the sum was won by David K. Moreland of Lothian in Anne Arundel County.

Mr. Moreland is receiving 20 yearly installments of $1,050,000 -- or $764,150 after deducting state and federal taxes.

Tomorrow's 7:59 p.m. drawing will be the 17th since Oct. 30, the last time there was a winner in the twice-weekly Lotto game, lottery officials said. Each time there is no winner, the prize money increases, with the amount of the rise determined by how much is wagered.

To play Lotto, players choose six numbers from 1 to 49, or have them randomly selected by the lottery's computer. Each $1 ticket allows purchasers to pick two sets of six numbers. Tickets can be bought until 10 minutes before the drawing.

To win the Lotto jackpot, players must match all six of the numbers selected in the drawing. The odds of doing that are 1 in 6.99 million for each $1 ticket.

Smaller cash prizes are awarded to those matching four and five of the six numbers, but these awards do not stop the money from accumulating in the jackpot.

Last week, the lottery sold 4.5 million tickets between Wednesday and Saturday. That compares to an average of about 800,000 tickets when the Lotto jackpot is at its $1 million minimum.

The enthusiasm generated by the record-tying jackpot is a shot in the arm to the beleaguered State Lottery Agency, whose director, William F. Rochford, was fired last week, just days after he accused Gov. William Donald Schaefer of ordering him to inflate revenue estimates for the lottery's new Keno game.

Mr. Schaefer's chief of staff said the governor is disappointed with the lottery agency's "sales and revenues."

"It's definitely a boost," lottery spokeswoman Elyn Garrett-Jones said of the $21 million jackpot. "We're seeing a lot of occasional players who normally don't play."

The agency expects Lotto sales from last Sunday through tomorrow to be in the same "general area" as those last week, she added.

That means another hectic couple of days for harried clerks at lottery outlets, many of whom saw lines snake around their stores last Friday and Saturday.

"It's been nonstop since it's been at 21 million," Nan Bell, a clerk at the Royal Farms Store on Keswick Road in Hampden, said of the traffic generated by the jackpot. "If somebody doesn't get it, I'm leaving town."

At the Homewood Deli in Charles Village, clerk Mizlal Kubrom also said Lotto ticket sales were brisk.

Juanita Fair, an administrative assistant, bought $10 worth as she sat down for a late lunch at the deli. "I let the machine pick four [sets of six numbers] and I picked the rest," she said. "I went to a Chinese restaurant and there were six numbers on the back of my fortune cookie so I used those."

Ms. Fair, who only plays Lotto when the jackpot "gets up there," said she hopes to spend New Year's Day "thinking of all kinds of things to do with the money."

In Towson, furrier Jimmy Oglesby bought his usual half-dozen tickets at the Shell Food Mart on Allegheny Ave. He said he'd be happy to share the prize with other winners. "I don't need it all. Just a little bit'll do [for] me," he said, adding, "If I get it, I'll still be the same. I wouldn't change. No way."

Meanwhile, a financial consultant had some pithy advice for whoever does win the jackpot.

"I would strongly suggest the first thing people do if they win is do nothing," said Lee W. Warner, a Timonium-based financial counselor and president of the Baltimore Association for Financial Planning. "They'll get a million calls from people who want to sell them things. The best thing to do is to ignore them and sit down and figure out how much they want to use for current consumption and how much for longer-term savings."

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