Marylanders are buying slightly fewer lottery tickets these days, but the state's share of the proceeds is up more than $12 million, or 8 percent, during the first half of this fiscal year.
That's partly because players have been winning less, lottery officials say, almost $14 million less from July through December of 1991.
"The irony of that is that we have no control over that," said lottery spokesman Carroll H. Hynson Jr. The prize payouts depend largely on chance, especially in the big-prize Lotto game.
"It [the players' winnings] will usually balance out to 49 or 50 percent of all revenues," Hynson said. During the first half of this year, it was about 48 percent.
Games with the bigger payoffs seemed to hold the most appeal for Maryland's lottery players these days.
Sales of the state's Pick 4 and Instant games were up only slightly, but there was a healthy $6.8 million (10 percent) gain in the twice-weekly Lotto game, according to the six-month tally.
Sales of the Winners Take All game, which was discontinued during the fall, fell by $9.2 million.
The $12.2 million in sales of the new Match 5 game, which began Oct. 10, 1991, were more than offset by a $13.9 million decline (6.8 percent) in the daily Pick 3 game.
"Maybe Pick 3 players are playing Match 5," said Hynson.
On balance, ticket sales fell by just $2.9 million during the the first half of the fiscal year, a decline of less than 1 percent.
Prizes awarded to winning players totaled nearly $195 million, down from $208.7 million during the same period last year, a 6.6 percent decline.
The state's net revenues climbed from $151.8 million during ther first half of last year to $164.2 million during the same period this year, an 8 percent gain.