Boom in gambling gives Md. lottery its best year $400 million profit earned on $1.1 billion in ticket sales

July 02, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

The Maryland lottery has just wrapped up its best year -- thanks to a boom in gambling on games such as keno and Lotto, officials said yesterday.

The state took in slightly more than $400 million in profits from the lottery in the fiscal year that ended June 30, a 2 percent increase in revenue from last year and a record.

In all, the state sold almost $1.1 billion in lottery tickets, a jump of 2.8 percent over the preceding year, the State Lottery Agency reported.

Maryland's success in the lottery comes as many states have seen their proceeds drop in recent years -- due in part to an upsurge in the availability of other forms of gambling, such as casinos and slot machines.

Buddy Roogow, head of the lottery agency, attributed the increase in Maryland sales and profits to better designed games, which offered more chances of winning, and an additional $2 million spent on advertising.

"We moved into a situation where we're trying to provide far more winning experiences," Roogow said, referring to several changes made in game prizes in the past year. "There are far more winners in our games than even last year."

But key legislators said the growth in lottery revenue was simply a reflection of a strong economy.

"I just think this is a product of good times," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "I think during good economic times, people play the lottery as a form of entertainment."

The boost in lottery revenue comes at a time when Gov. Parris N. Glendening has taken a firm stand against introducing casino-style gambling, including slot machines, into the state.

Roogow said the lottery, in its 25th year, provides a different sort of gambling activity.

"We aren't providing the instant gratification you can have with a slot machine," Roogow said. "You don't have a lever you can push down or a button to push to get the money."

Of the $1.1 billion wagered by the public, $566 million went back as prizes. After administrative expenses, the state's share was slightly more than $400 million.

Of that amount, $32.5 million went to the Maryland Stadium Authority to help pay for the baseball and football stadiums at the Camden Yards complex. Under legislation approved by the General Assembly, another $5 million in lottery proceeds was applied to boost purses at Maryland horse racing tracks.

The remainder, $362.6 million, went into the state's General Fund to be used for general government obligations. The state's take exceeded projections made six months ago by $15 million.

The biggest increase in lottery revenue came in keno, a fast-moving numbers game played usually in bars and restaurants. Sales from keno increased from $233 million in the preceding year to $252 million this year, Roogow said.

That translated into a profit for the state of $78 million, up from $72 million last year.

Roogow attributed the keno increase to stepped-up marketing efforts by lottery personnel.

Lotto profits also jumped, from about $26 million to $30 million. Roogow said the increase was due to a change that offers more chances to win smaller prizes in the twice-weekly drawings.

The biggest lottery game, Pick 3, had its revenue hold almost steady at $145 million. The Pick 4 game saw its profits drop -- largely because of the drawing of several popular winning numbers such as 6666, which forced the state to pay much more in prizes than it collected in sales, Roogow said.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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