State doubles chance to play weekly Lotto

Maryland will expand its weekly Lotto game in January to include a second weekly drawing, lottery officials announced today.

A Wednesday drawing is being added to the current Saturday drawing because "Lotto players told us they want more of the same, more opportunities to win and more prizes," said Marty Goldman, the Lottery Agency's deputy director for marketing.


"We want to give players what they want," he said, "and it looks now like twice weekly [Lotto drawings] is what they want."

Of course, the state also hopes the change will boost Lotto sales. Lotto players bought $159 million worth of tickets last year, netting the state treasury $64 million. That was up $4 million from the prior year but $5 million less than the record $69 million collected in 1988.


If Maryland does as well with a second drawing as other states have, sales could increase from 15 percent to as much as 100 percent, Goldman said.

"We are not the first ones to take this step," he said. Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and the Lotto America consortium, which includes the District of Columbia, West Virginia and 13 other states, are among more than two dozen already offering twice-weekly Lotto drawings.

"Player response [in those states] has been very positive," Goldman said.

The added drawing won't alter the chances of winning the multimillion-dollar jackpot, which is always at least $2 million. Chances of winning remain about 1 in 7 million for each set of six numbers.

The precise effect that a Wednesday drawing will have on Lotto sales is uncertain, Goldman said.

"Our numbers show us, however, that approximately 80 percent of all Lotto tickets are purchased from Thursday to Saturday," he said. "We expect to maintain those purchases. And only time will tell what purchases from Sunday to Wednesday will be. We do expect sales for the Wednesday drawing to be lower [than those for the Saturday drawing]."

Unlike the people who play the daily Pick 3 and Pick 4 numbers games, who tend to be more heavily urban and, therefore, more heavily black and poor, Lotto players more closely resemble the demographics of the state as a whole, Goldman said.

"That's because so much of the population plays it," he said. Surveys show that 49 percent of the state's adults had played Lotto within the previous two months, and 86 percent of all lottery players play Lotto.


Although the state sells more Pick 3 tickets ($405 million in 1990, compared with $160 million in Lotto tickets), Lotto is "by far the most popular game overall," Goldman said. "It appeals to everyone."

Goldman said the agency is "very conscious" of the danger of "saturating" the public's appetite for new lottery games.

But marketing studies indicate "a strong majority" of Lotto players want a second Lotto drawing. When Lotto players were asked in a telephone survey several months ago whether they would buy additional tickets if a second drawing were offered, Goldman said, "The general answer we got was yes."

Regular innovations and changes are important to state lottery operations, Goldman said.

Maryland's is "a mature lottery" now, he said, and "if we don't do anything new, it becomes tired and stale, and sales can decrease as they did in 1989. . . . We are determined not to let that happen again."

The Wednesday Lotto drawing unveiled today is the latest in a series of changes that began a little more than a year ago in response to a $65 million slump in lottery sales during fiscal 1989. It was the first sales slump in the games' history, and it cost the state $16 million in revenues.


In related lottery news, officials are waiting for the owner of a Lotto ticket sold last week in an Ocean City variety store to step forward and claim an $8 million jackpot.

The ticket was the only one that matched the six Lotto numbers drawn Saturday night. The winner will collect about $400,000 a year for 20 years.