Beginning Sunday, Match 5 lottery game to be held 7 days a PTC week

September 13, 1995|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

To jack up sluggish revenues for one of its basic games, state lottery officials said yesterday that beginning Sunday drawings for the Match 5 game will be held seven days a week instead of the current five.

Lottery spokesman Carroll H. Hynson Jr. said the revamped game will feature a new sixth "bonus ball" designed to entice more Marylanders to play by giving players more chances to win.

Match 5 players try to pick five winning numbers from 39 balls used in television drawings. The revised game will let players choose a sixth or "bonus" ball from the remaining 34 balls.

By allowing a "bonus" ball to be counted, Mr. Hynson said there will be more winners -- although the top Match 5 prize -- $50,000 -- can only be won by making a match with the original five numbers chosen.

Players using "bonus balls" who match four numbers would win $600; those using "bonus balls" who match three numbers would win $30; and those who match two would win $2.

Mr. Hynson said revenue from Match 5 has dropped from $34 million to $32 million a year over the past two years, in part due to players are moving to popular instant games or to games such as Lotto or Keno that offer bigger jackpots, he said.

"We just need to adjust to make things a little better," he said. "At any time to be competitive, we make adjustments in our games, to enhance the overall performance of our games. This is just an enhancement."

In May, lottery officials converted the Pick-3 and Pick-4 games from one drawing a day to two (except on Sundays) for virtually the same reasons.

Mr. Hynson said lottery officials notified the governor's office of the proposed change this summer. Dianna Rosborough, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's spokeswoman, said one of the governor's deputy chiefs-of-staff was notified of the game change, but that Mr. Glendening had not been told at the time.

Nevertheless, she said the governor viewed the changes as "more of a new marketing technique or promotion to help stabilize revenues," and not a broad expansion of state-sanctioned gambling.

In March, Mr. Glendening expressed concern about the spread of state-sanctioned gambling, saying that was why he had threatened this past winter to veto any 1995 legislation to authorize casino gambling, and why he voted against the state buying more instant lottery ticket vending machines.

But the governor went along with the plans to double the Pick-3 and Pick-4 drawings -- just as he has with the changes to Match 5 -- saying that was "a marketing decision" and not a major expansion.

The state-run lottery is Maryland's third largest single source of revenue, trailing only the personal income tax and the sales tax.

Last year, the lottery grossed more than $1 billion in sales and brought a state record $385 million into Maryland's treasury.

The state ended fiscal year 1995 with a modest $26 million surplus, about half of which was attributed to higher than estimated lottery revenues.

A March 1994 nationwide study of "Legalized Gambling as a Strategy for Economic Development," conducted by Robert Goodman of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and financed by the Aspen Institute and the Ford Foundation, concluded that, "Once gambling ventures are legalized and governments become dependent on their revenues, the future form and spread of gambling within a state becomes extremely difficult to control."

The report also concluded that, "As state budgets become more gambling-dependent, legislators are tending to legalize higher revenue producing games, like video lottery terminals [slot machines] and Keno at dispersed locations."

Mr. Hynson said sales from instant ticket games in Maryland are up by 25 percent over last year, and Keno play is up by 18 percent.

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