State begins Countdown to Millions before selling all tickets

January 02, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

The countdown took a little longer than expected.

After a delay of one day, the Maryland Lottery held its drawing last night for Countdown to Millions new game featuring the Maryland Lottery's best odds ever at winning $1 million - and at $20 apiece, its most expensive tickets ever.

The game, which the lottery marketed as a 1-in-105,000 chance to win $1 million and a 1-in-517 chance to win at least $500, was originally scheduled for a New Year's Eve drawing. But with sales short of the lottery's 420,000- ticket goal, the drawing was pushed back 24 hours.

The lottery sold about 325,000 tickets, which officials considered a success, said lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett.

"We're pretty pleased because this game came out at the same time that we lost our advertising agency," Everett said. "This thing has run with almost no advertising. All things considered, we're pretty pleased."

Countdown to Millions tickets went on sale Nov. 20, about a week after its longtime advertising agency, Eisner Communications, went out of business. The lottery relies heavily on advertising to generate ticket sales, and the unexpected loss of Eisner caused problems for the agency, which cannot easily purchase ad time directly from television stations, newspapers and other outlets because of restrictions in state procurement laws.

The lottery hired the ad agency Trahan, Burden & Charles on Dec. 8, but the ad campaign was off the air entirely for about a month.

From the start, the lottery gave itself some wiggle room on the drawing date. The fine print for the game said the lottery could hold the drawing earlier or later, depending on when the tickets sold out. Everett said lottery officials "didn't want to disappoint our players," so they held the drawing last night even though the game hadn't sold out.

Lottery players probably weren't complaining about the lower-than-expected sales: Fewer tickets sold meant better odds.

In contrast to a traditional lottery game in which the number of tickets sold doesn't affect an individual player's chances to win, this game was more like a raffle and the numbers were assigned sequentially as players bought tickets. The possible combinations in the drawing were limited to the numbers on players' tickets.

That means the odds of winning $1 million were actually about 1 in 81,250 and the odds of winning any prize were about 1 in 400.

Last night, lottery officials began announcing the million dollar winners intermittently during the prime time TV hours. The winning numbers are: 076104, 097164, 298695 and 129615. Lottery officials said all the winning numbers will be accessible on the Maryland Lottery Web site or by getting a list of winning tickets from lottery agents.

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