Scratch off lottery tickets, fly 1st-class to London

State agency will seek OK for 100 pairs in promotion also involving airline, BWI

November 25, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Maryland Lottery officials are hoping their customers will be scratching to get into the snob section on British Airways.

The lottery plans to purchase 100 pairs of round-trip, first-class tickets for travel between Baltimore-Washington International Airport and London to offer as prizes in a scratch-off ticket game in mid-January.

The lottery promotion, in partnership with BWI and British Airways, is the first of its kind in Maryland and apparently the largest travel tie-in with any state game in the country. "This is good for British Airways," lottery director Buddy Roogow said. "It helps them to fill first-class seats."

Trent Kittleman, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, said that is how the idea began.

Kittleman said she and airport marketing director Linda Mallinger flew to London to meet with British Airways officials in the spring, when the airline was considering dropping the number of U.S. airports it serves.

The airline's largest concern about BWI was that while it is a good market for coach and business-class passengers, it doesn't generate enough first-class traffic, Kittleman said.

"It was not an overwhelming issue with British Airways," she said. "They just need to insure their first-class increases by a small margin, and they would be very happy."

The deputy secretary said she later got the idea of giving away first-class tickets through the lottery and brought the proposal to Roogow, who liked it.

"If it all works, it's a win-win-win," Kittleman said. "Not to mention that people will get to fly first-class."

Winners of the tickets, which normally cost about $16,000 a pair, will be able to dine on fancy cuisine and wash it down with the finest wines without having to reach for their wallets, said airline official Derrick Surratt. Then they can sleep on a flat foldout bed as they cross the Atlantic.

With the tickets, the lottery will award winners enough cash to pay taxes on the prize and to cover costs of a vacation. Each winning package will be worth about $20,000, said Roogow.

"We're really excited," he said yesterday. "We're going to try to really advertise this effectively."

He said the odds will be more favorable to buyers than the typical $5 scratch-off game.

Roogow said the travel packages will be awarded in addition to the payoffs on the game, which will go as high as $30,000.

David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, said other state games have run travel promotions but not on this scale. "I would venture to say it's a little more creative and innovative than what I have seen in the past in the industry," Gale said. "It sounds like a good promotion."

The lottery agency's purchase of the tickets must be approved by the state Board of Public Works. The agency did not announce the game, but it placed the purchase on the board's Dec. 3 agenda.

The total cost of the ticket purchase will be up to $1.15 million. Roogow said the money will come out of the lottery's prize fund and will not require additional state spending.

The agency expects the promotional campaign for the game to generate favorable publicity for British Airways and the airport, Roogow said.

He said the tickets will carry no seasonal restrictions on when the winners can fly as long as the seats aren't booked. The only requirement is flying into and out of BWI.

The state will pay a discounted $11,500 for each pair of tickets, he said. The rest of the $20,000 package will be paid to winners in cash.

Roogow figures that after paying income taxes on the ticket, each winner will have several thousand dollars to spend on hotels and other expenses.

The promotion will bring new attention to the lottery at a time when sales have been essentially flat. The lottery finished the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a tiny increase that gave it a sales record, but its earnings fell short of budget projections.

Roogow is hoping that the plane ticket promotion will stimulate sales. "We want our tickets to sell out," he said. "Our goal is to award all 100."

Of course, that raises the possibility that British Airways' usual first-class clientele may find themselves sipping Dom Perignon with some less-than-lordly Baltimore characters.

Surratt said he's not worried. "It's an opportunity to hopefully stimulate demand for our first-class product out of Baltimore," he said. "We look forward to welcoming the winners on board."

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