Multi-state lottery operation halted

July 15, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Welcome to Maryland, where you can't play the Pennsylvania lottery -- yet.

Fortune U.S.A., a company based in suburban Pittsburgh, has been setting up a computer system in Maryland that would allow people here to buy tickets for lotteries in other states. The lure: giant jackpots in states such as Texas and Florida.

But only the State of Maryland can sell lottery tickets in Maryland, Judge Edward J. Angeletti ruled yesterday in a hastily called hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court. He issued a 35-day injunction that forced the company to halt its operations here before it could swing into business.

The judge agreed with Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who appeared in court to ask for the injunction. Mr. Curran's office, which filed papers in court yesterday afternoon, said Fortune U.S.A.'s activities violated state law and were a threat to Maryland lottery ticket sales.

Bill Wagner, a Fortune U.S.A. regional manager, said in an interview yesterday that the company was not selling lottery tickets; it was merely acting as a broker.

The company was in the process of recruiting ticket vendors, who would pay $3,500 to receive computer terminals and software.

Under the arrangement, Maryland ticket-buyers would pay vendors for out-of-state tickets. Vendors would enter the player's numbers in to the computer system and issue a receipt for the purchase of a lottery ticket in Ohio, Pennsylvania or another state.

Fortune U.S.A. agents in those states would actually buy the tickets and hold them until winning numbers were announced.

In Pennsylvania, the company sells tickets for lotteries in six other states, including New York and Florida.

But Mr. Curran said Fortune U.S.A. customers would have no assurance that tickets would be purchased in the other states or that they would receive their prizes, because Maryland would have no regulatory authority over the company.

tTC Robert B. Green, Fortune U.S.A.'s lawyer, said his client would comply with the court order but added that he would ask the judge to lift the injunction.

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