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Lottery sales drop for second straight year

Maryland Lottery sales dropped again for a second year in a row as they compete with the state's casinos for the gambler's dollar, the state agency reported Monday.

The drop of 1.7 percent for the fiscal year ending on June 30 follows a drop of 2.2 percent the prior year, which was the first time in 15 years that sales had not grown, said Stephen Martino, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. The first drop came in the year after the opening of Maryland Live in Arundel Mills, the state's largest casino.

"Lottery sales certainly have been impacted by the growth of Maryland's casino industry," Martino said in a news release.

Last year's sales of $1.72 billion for the ten lottery games contributed $521 million to the state's General Fund, a drop of 4.45 percent from the previous year.

Revenue from the state's four casinos, meanwhile, was $833 million, contributing $328 million to the state's Education Trust Fund.

The agency is likely to see an impact from the opening of Maryland's fifth casino and the first in Baltimore, one of the strongest markets in the state for lottery sales. Horseshoe Casino Baltimore will be the state's second-largest when it opens Aug. 26.

The Maryland Lottery hopes to boost sales by "encouraging a large number of people to play a little bit" rather than trying to squeeze more sales out of fewer people, Martino said in an interview. The agency has developed a plan to find and get the word out to those who are not playing the lottery now, such as younger people, and will use social media as part of that effort.

The agency also is in discussions with a number of large retailers that are not lottery dealers in hopes of encouraging them to sign up, he said. He would not name companies but said, for instance, that the "big box" stores do not sell lottery tickets.

To expand the network of lottery vendors — now about 4,400 locations — he said the agency will have to address concerns that some stores have about retail lottery operations. Martino said that could mean designing lottery ticket machines that take up less space, and finding ways to reduce the time store clerks spend on lottery sales.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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