Lottery sales for year hit $1.5 billion, setting record

Prizes to players increase $16.5 million, to record $919 million

August 07, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

The Maryland Lottery's sales for the past fiscal year topped $1.5 billion, a record high, marking the lottery's 10th consecutive year of sales growth, lottery officials reported yesterday.

From July 1, 2006, through June 30, prizes paid to players totaled a record $919 million, an increase of more than $16.5 million over the previous fiscal year. And retailers earned more than $112 million in commissions, an increase of $9.4 million. The lottery will contribute more than $494 million in revenue to the state, slightly less than in the previous year.

What began as a sluggish year because of low ticket sales for Mega Millions and other games picked up at midyear, fueled by the popularity of Racetrax, a new simulated horse-racing monitor game and an array of scratch-offs, said Buddy W. Roogow, the lottery's director.

"We're thrilled," Roogow said. "Many lotteries around the country experienced a downturn in sales last year. It was a tough year. Many lotteries rely on Powerball and Mega Millions to generate sales, but Maryland was successful in other areas that allowed us to overcome that."

Pick 4, one of the lottery's most popular games, set a sales record of more than $240 million. Pick 3 and Pick 4 sales combined reached nearly $532 million.

Mega Millions, which brought in $98 million in sales, did not perform as well as lottery officials would have liked. Because the game generates the most excitement when the jackpots exceed $100 million, sales were weakened when a larger number of winners last year more frequently brought the jackpot back to less than $10 million, Roogow said.

"I'm not a big fan of the game in actuality," Roogow said. "This is the one game we have based on players not winning the jackpot."

The lottery's $494 million contribution to the state is less than the $501 million it contributed in fiscal 2006 because of legislation giving retailers an extra half-percent commission.

"I like to think of it as a win-win situation," Roogow said. "The player gets the reward, and the state reaps the benefit of that play by virtue of being able to support other programs that would otherwise rely on taxes for support. It's an important element in the state's revenue structure. ... So everyone gets a raise. Everybody deserves a raise on occasion."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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