Lottery players hope their six numbers come up

May 12, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writer

Oh, for the gift of prophecy yesterday, to be able to close your eyes and have these numbers come to mind: 11, 26, 30, 32, 41, 48.

Instead, thousands of Marylanders had to rely on hunches, birthday combinations or in most cases the numbers randomly chosen by the Maryland Lottery's computer system as they hoped to win an $18 million Lotto jackpot -- third largest in the game's 11-year history.

The big prize -- actually an annuity that would provide a single winner a before-tax payment of $900,000 a year for the next 20 years -- has been growing since March 19, when the Lotto game last had a ticket matching all six numbers.

Since then, there have been 14 drawings without a jackpot payoff in the twice-a-week game, a reflection of the 6.9 million-to-1 odds designed to produce few winners and big prizes.

Since Lotto was introduced in 1983, there have been more than 500 jackpot winners -- but many of them came in the early years when the game had slightly lower odds with just 40 numbers to choose from. Since May 1990, players have had to choose from 49 numbers.

Last night's jackpot fell short of the record $21 million collected by a single winner, David K. Moreland of Lothian, in 1991, and on a shared ticket last year by Columbia residents Catherine Helowicz and Timothy Udicious.

But the biggest winner has been the state government, which takes in about 44 percent of the money bet on its daily Pick-3 and Pick-4 games, five-days-a-week Pick-5, instant-winner scratch-off tickets and Lotto.

Last month, the Maryland Lottery announced that the state's profit of $280,734,451 in the first quarter of 1994 showed a nearly 16 percent increase over the same period last year -- and with the big jackpot to fuel interest, officials were hoping the brisk business in legalized gambling would continue.

Lottery spokesman Carroll H. Hynson Jr. said big Lotto jackpots such as the one building since mid-March seem to spark increased play in the other games as bettors purchase their game tickets from some 3,300 lottery agents in stores across Maryland.

Whether anyone hit last night's $18 million jackpot will be announced this morning, after lottery officials finish a computer analysis of sales.

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