Enough to make you scream

Lottery: Fifty Lottery losers get another chance, this time on TV, to hit the big time.

June 18, 1999|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The air inside the Flite Three Television Studio in Baltimore was thick with excitement as 50 potential millionaires, their eyes filled with dollar signs, awaited their curtain call.

They were there to vie for $2.5 million in cash and other prizes in a new game show, "Scream for Millions," sponsored by the Maryland Lottery and Six Flags America.

The show -- which will air tonight on Baltimore's WJZ-TV and several other Maryland stations -- came as a chance for redemption for the contestants, all of whom were past losers in the Maryland Lottery.

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's Today section, the wrong day was given for the televising of "Screaming for Millions." Maryland Lottery's new game show will air at 7 tonight on Baltimore's WJZ-TV, Channel 13. The Sun regrets the error.

To be eligible, potential contestants sent in at least $5 worth of losing lottery tickets purchased between April 15 and May 27. Three drawings were held to choose the 50 people who would come to Baltimore for the taping of the show.

Competition was fierce; in all, the lottery received more than 300,000 entries. "One woman sent in 324 entries," said Buddy Roogow, lottery director. Entries came from all over Maryland, as well as a few from Virginia and Washington.

Contestant Henry Mack, 56, of Essex, said that he spends at least $20 a day on lottery tickets. He sent in $20 worth of losing tickets to get on the show. "I've been playing the same Pick 3 numbers long as I can remember," said Mack, who adds that the clerk at the store where he buys his tickets no longer even has to ask for his numbers. When he found out he had been chosen for the show, Mack recalled with a smirk, "All I could think about was that million bucks."

"I thought it was a joke," said Sarah Jackson, 51, of Oxon Hill, about being told that she was a contestant. Asked what she would do if she won $1 million, Jackson said, "I'll have myself a new kitchen put in." Jackson and the other contestants received $1,000 just for being chosen to play.

Contestants had the chance to play in any of six games -- "Paycheck Bonus," "Lucky Numbers," "Maryland Raceway," "Crab Cash," "Maryland's Famous" and the most anticipated of all, the "Million Dollar Giveaway."

They were chosen at random to play the games when a wheel, numbered 1 through 50, was spun by hosts Doug Davidson, of "The Young and the Restless," and Deidra Johnson, a local actress.

According to Roogow, the cash and prizes won on the show, as well as transportation and hotel accommodations for the contestants and their guests, are paid for out of the Maryland Lottery's unclaimed prize fund. By law, money from this fund is supposed to be redistributed to Maryland residents, and "Scream for Millions" is one way this is being done.

Roogow said that the show will probably never be syndicated, but may be done again if tonight's episode is well-received. "Because `Scream for Millions' helps spread the word about the new Six Flags America, the Maryland Lottery is able to accomplish another one of our objectives, which is to promote tourism and economic development in Maryland," said Roogow. The show is "just another way for people to have a second chance to win at another aspect of the lottery", he said.

State lotteries in New York, Florida, Ohio, California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have all put on lottery shows of this kind, but Maryland's is the first to do it in partnership with a large amusement park such as Six Flags, in Largo. This combination of cash and roller coasters is unique to say the least.

As the evening wound down, more and more of the 50 contestants sat wringing their hands and biting their nails, overwhelmed by their proximity to millions of dollars and their chances at beating the odds. At one point the taping was stopped to give one man a glass of water after he nearly fainted over his winnings.

One by one, the chosen few of the lucky 50 accumulated, returning to their seats with wide, satisfied smiles, the green of the large sums of money they'd won now clashing with the blue of their promotional T-shirts.

By the end of the show, $2.5 million worth of cash and prizes had been awarded, including two 1999 Chevrolet Camaros.

So, who won? Tune in tonight.

"Scream for Millions" will air at 7 on WJZ Channel 13 in Baltimore, WBOC Channel 16 in Salisbury, WHAG Channel 25 in Hagerstown and WDCA Channel 20 in Washington.

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