Bypassing three significantly lower bids, the state awarded a $2.1 million-a-year contract to WBAL-TV to broadcast lottery drawings, a move officials say will pay for itself in additional promotional exposure.
WJZ-TV, which currently airs the lottery drawings, offered to continue for $1.25 million a year, and two other stations, WBFF and Maryland Public Television, also underbid WBAL.
But lottery director Buddy W. Roogow said the WBAL proposal gives the state a unique opportunity to promote the lottery on television and its radio stations, WBAL-AM and WIYY-FM, known as 98 Rock.
"WBAL offers us something that no other proposer could offer," Roogow said. "It's a partnership unique in the country."
Roogow said WBAL offered to provide on-air talent from WBAL-AM and 98 Rock to do the lottery drawings, which now feature voice-overs and anonymous lottery officials.
"Now these drawings are going to have a great deal more personality added to them," Roogow said.
He said WBAL also offered significantly more promotional time than the other stations did. He said lottery officials estimated that the additional promotional time will translate to $35 million more in annual sales and $10 million more in revenue for the state than the other stations' offers. The WBAL contract is for four years, with a two-year renewal option.
The lottery is expected to contribute $563 million to the state budget this year - making it one of the largest revenue sources in the state. Roogow said the lottery has set sales records in each of the past nine years.
The lottery has been holding its drawings on WJZ for more than 11 years, but WJZ station manager Jay Newman said there were no hard feelings about the state's decision to give the contract to WBAL.
"WJZ has enjoyed providing production services for the Maryland lottery drawings, and although we no longer will be producing the drawings, we look forward to working with the lottery on other projects and marketing opportunities in the future," Newman said.
None of the members of the Board of Public Works questioned the lottery's decision to give the contract to the highest bidder.
Roogow said the lottery is still in discussions with the station about which broadcast personalities will host the drawings and appear in the promotional ads. One WBAL-AM talk-show host, Chip Franklin, does ads for the lottery.
Favorite of governor
WBAL-AM has been a favorite media outlet of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. throughout his term, and he has made frequent appearances on Franklin's show. However, Franklin's contract with the lottery predates Ehrlich's administration.
The state's selection of WBAL also bypasses a $1.65 million bid by WBFF, which is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose executives are major Ehrlich donors.