Beginning Monday, the daily Maryland Lottery winners will no longer be chosen by the air-powered machine that spits out balls with numbers that are read by TV announcers.
Instead, a computer system called a random number generator will select winners for the Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Bonus Match 5 and Multi-Match drawings.
Carole Gentry, Maryland Lottery and Gaming’s managing director of communications, said the change allows Maryland to join 30 other states in using random number generators, saving the state agency both money and time.
“I don’t have the numbers, but it’s significant savings,” Gentry said, money that will go back into the state’s general fund.
The push to modernize came after talking to other state lotteries around the country and comes just before the state lottery’s 50th anniversary in 2023.
The lottery previously had a contract with WBAL-TV that required more lottery staffing and hours, Gentry said.
“This way you get the system in place and then you’re good to go,” she said.
Results will continue to be available on the Maryland Lottery website and mobile app and by phone at 410-230-8830. Animated videos of the drawings, like those used for Kenos, will be available online.
Some lottery enthusiasts are not pleased about the shift.
Bob Sherron, 63, of Westminster runs a trucking company, where he said many of the drivers play the lottery. Sherron is a casual player annoyed by the change, which he said was made without enough input from Maryland residents who like watching the numbers chosen.
“It’ll probably make me stop playing,” Sherron said. “It irritates me that there’s a lack of concern for the people who are playing the game.”
While Sherron mostly plays the Mega Millions and Powerball, he will occasionally spend his extra cash on the daily lottery. Now, he said he plans to save his dollar.
Robert Fields of Parkville said he will miss seeing the winning numbers announced on TV. An avid print newspaper reader, the 67-year-old doesn’t have internet access and describes himself as “not computer-literate.”
“It seems like it’s gotten harder and harder to access it. I don’t think our society is real friendly to older people,” Fields said.
He said he enjoyed watching pleasant local personalities read the numbers on TV.
“I enjoyed the entertainment value of that particular segment,” he said. “I think it’s more honest to see the pingpong balls in the slots, then you know what’s what.”
Tracey Schmidt, 53, of Pasadena echoed Fields’ concerns about the integrity of the new digital system. Schmidt said she thinks moving to a new method of drawing numbers will decrease gamblers’ faith in the legitimacy of the winning numbers.
“I felt like the trust in the Maryland lottery started to fade when it came out with the audit, which said it seems as if the same people are winning over and over,” she said.
A state legislative audit found in March that the State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency did not investigate people who won multiple large lottery prizes in one year. According to the audit, 362 people won high-dollar prizes 20 or more times during 2020.
In the agency’s response to the audit, it acknowledged that the finding was accurate but said it was “not concerned with the legitimacy of the prizes themselves, since they are all validated within our system.”
The agency did say it has begun testing a process that requires select winners of multiple prizes to claim them in person and allow lottery officials to identify questionable practices.
Gentry emphasized that the new drawing method starting Monday will be subject to stringent security measures to prevent any tampering. The room at the lottery headquarters where the computer system is located will be under 24/7 surveillance, and two drawing officials with separate key cards must be present for anyone to get inside.
“Lottery players are definitely creatures of habit. They like things the way they’re done,” Gentry said. “The games are exactly the same, same time, same drawings, same payout. The only thing that’s changed is the mechanism for drawing the numbers.”