When jackpots top $200 million, Don Hoover travels from his Baltimore home to a Pennsylvania store to play the multi-state Powerball lottery game, enduring a long ride for the slim chance of a life-altering payoff.
But soon, Hoover, a 57-year-old state worker, won't have to drive at all. On Monday, Maryland will be among the first states selling tickets to both Powerball and its big-money competitor already here, MegaMillions. Hoover called the coming change "convenient," and said he planned to continue to play the new-arriving game on occasion.
"I like the size of the jackpot," he said. "And when it gets up there, it's good to put a couple of bucks down."
State officials are counting on plenty more players like Hoover.
Maryland is projecting about $17 million in sales and $7 million worth of Powerball revenue between February and the June 30 end of the fiscal year, said lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett. State officials anticipate $41 million in sales and $16.5 million in revenue for the next fiscal year.
The money comes as the state faces a $2 billion gap between projected revenue and expenditures. After income and sales taxes, the lottery is the third-largest source of money for state operations.
Despite what looks to be a natural competition for dollars with the long-standing MegaMillions, which draws on Tuesdays and Saturdays, lottery officials believe there will be enough money to go around.
Another game, the state's million-dollar lottery, Multi-Match, also draws twice a week, but will switch to Mondays and Thursdays to accommodate Powerball - which has drawings on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Everett, the lottery spokeswoman, said there was "room in the state" for both multi-state games.
"People who love to play jackpot games love whichever game has the high jackpot," she said. "Multi-Match is homegrown. They're not necessarily the same audience of players. But everybody becomes a player when jackpots go way up."
Powerball is drawn in 31 states and the District of Columbia, while Maryland is one of 12 different states offering MegaMillions. Because of the higher number of players, Powerball jackpots tend to be the higher of the two, and the record Powerball jackpot of $365 million set in 2007.
Last year, officials from the two games began discussions on an agreement to allow each to be drawn in the other's territories, with the idea of an eventual merger that could send jackpots into the half-billion-dollar range.
Lottery officials launched a promotional tour of the state on Monday, with one worker dressing in a large round costume to represent a Powerball. They highlighted the tantalizing jackpots, which start at $20 million.
"This is going to be good for everybody," said Al Wilson, 47, as he spoke in downtown Baltimore on Charles Street. "I'm going to play and ... if I win, I'm going to open up a recreation center right here in the heart of Baltimore."
For now, Daryl Etheridge, a 43-year-old state worker who lives in West Baltimore, will teeter between the two, devoting his monthly lottery allotment to whichever offers the higher pot.
"I've played Powerball a couple of times in D.C.," he said. "It's going to make a big difference. I think you'll have more people going to Powerball now than the Mega because it tends to be a bigger prize. And you're going to go where the money is."
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