State lottery takes lesson from `Millionaire'

Odds, prizes increase with time in new game

April 20, 2001|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

Feeling lucky? The Maryland Lottery has come up with a new way for you to bet your money, patterned after the popular TV quiz show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

The game, to be unveiled April 30, is called Let It Ride. Lottery officials hope it will help fill the state's need for ever-increasing gambling revenues as player enthusiasm for the once-mighty Lotto wanes.

Lottery Director Buddy G. Roogow said yesterday that he hopes the new game will draw new business by offering players a type of betting unlike any of the state-run numbers games elsewhere in the country.

"We think players want more control and more permutations," Roogow said. The parlay-style game evokes the mounting stakes that are the hallmark of "Millionaire," one of the most-watched shows on television.

For a $1 wager, players can bet that the numbers they pick in four columns will come up in daily televised drawings over a period they choose, from one to seven days.

The fewer numbers the player picks in each column and the fewer days, the longer the odds against winning and the bigger the jackpot.

Players can win $2 to $300 the first day. Chances of doing that range from 1 in 4 to 1 in 625.

Winners can quit and collect at any time or try for ever-increasing payouts by letting their bets ride in drawings on subsequent days, but they risk losing what they could have collected if they had stopped playing.

They can get a maximum of $1 million if they pick three numbers in each column correctly over three days or four numbers in each column over four days. The chances of either are remote, 1 in 1.9 million and 1 in 2.3 million, respectively.

The new game was developed by the company that runs the Maryland Lottery, Automated Wagering International Inc. Roogow said the state would try the game for about six months to see whether it caught on.

With eight games from scratch-offs to Keno, the lottery has been raking in record amounts for at least four years, officials said.

The lottery agency projects collecting $405 million in revenue in the budget year that will end in June. The target for next year is $425 million.

"We can't just sit on our laurels," Roogow said. "In order to continue to do well, we've got to provide new features and new games."

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