The fun and games that the Maryland lottery has been bringing to senior citizens in shopping malls and nursing homes is over -- at least for now.
The director of the Maryland lottery announced yesterday that he has suspended two programs aimed at elderly citizens.
Maryland Lottery Director Buddy Roogow said the programs will be re-evaluated by lottery officials. He said the lottery cannot allow the perception to continue that it is enticing the elderly to play.
"I think the continuing publicity and controversy regarding these programs is unhealthy for the lottery," said Roogow.
"Despite the fact that our motivations were sincere, we have to discontinue the programs," he said.
The announcement comes two days after an article in The Sun described how two programs operated by the lottery -- "Walk-to-Win" and "Lottery on Wheels" -- for senior citizens.
Game winners were awarded prizes including T-shirts, hats and lottery tickets.
In the 5-year-old Walk-to-Win program, lottery representatives visit 13 malls each month and hand out prizes to senior citizens who wear the lottery logo while they exercise.
The Lottery on Wheels program brings a mobile game-playing machine into nursing homes, running pseudo-lottery games for elderly residents.
Lottery officials maintain that the programs are a community service and are not intended to encourage senior citizens to play the lottery.
"I'm very concerned personally about the image of the lottery," Roogow said. "We are a good citizen, and we want to make sure our outreach programs are received in that manner."
Still, with the Maryland attorney general's office saying Friday that it, too, intends to review the programs after seeing the articles, Roogow said the programs should be suspended while lottery officials complete their internal review.
Visits planned to area malls and nursing homes in the next few weeks will be canceled, Roogow said.
He said he does not know how long the review will take or whether the programs will be restarted in some new form or halted altogether.
"We're going to try to determine what kind of community outreach programs the lottery can provide that are noncontroversial and don't lend that perception" that the lottery is trying to promote itself to the elderly, Roogow said.
"Independent of these stories, if these programs lend that perception, then we're not going to be able to continue them," he said.
The decision by Roogow drew praise yesterday from Valerie Lorenz, director of Baltimore's Compulsive Gambling Center.
"It's wonderful," Lorenz said. "I hope the programs are gone for good. You do not entice senior citizens who are in a nursing home and try to squeeze their last dollar out of them. That's outrageous."