The Maryland lottery won legislative permission yesterday to join four other states in offering a new game with huge jackpots this year.
The game, similar to Powerball, could be launched as early as September, depending on how quickly the other states -- Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois and Virginia -- obtain the necessary approvals.
The as-yet unnamed game will bring an estimated $14 million to $19 million a year into Maryland coffers and indirectly help the state raise money to finance the Baltimore football stadium, lottery officials said.
"I'm concerned that without this game we would have difficulty next year meeting those [stadium] obligations," said Joseph B. Jason, deputy director of marketing for the Maryland Lottery Agency.
A few legislators expressed concern that the new game might cut too deeply into sales of other lottery games and might not make as much money as predicted.
Nevertheless, the Legislative Policy Committee, a bipartisan group of House of Delegates and Senate leaders, overwhelmingly approved the proposed game at a meeting in Annapolis yesterday.
Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat, said the expansion of state-sponsored gambling is necessary to compete with surrounding states that offer Powerball, which attracts many Maryland players.
A state lottery commission also must vote on the proposal, but its approval is expected.
The biggest attraction of a multistate game is its potential for jackpots in the tens of millions of dollars. By banding together, the five states can offer jackpots as high as $50 million to $70 million -- some three times higher than the largest Maryland Lotto prize.
The lottery hopes the new game will routinely attract people who play other games only occasionally, when their jackpots exceed $10 million, Jason said.
The multistate game also will enable the Maryland lottery to compete with Powerball sales in Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, he said.
Last year 23 percent of Marylanders reported playing Powerball, offered by 20 states and Washington, and has had jackpots from $40 million to more than $80 million.
The new game would offer one drawing a week, probably on Friday or Saturday, with about 11 total jackpot winners a year. Its rules would be similar to Powerball, with players picking five or six numbers out of one set, plus one number out of another set.
The game would cut into Lotto and Match 5 sales, which might lead to changes in the number of drawings and types of prizes for those older games, said Lottery Acting Director William W. Saltzman.
The new game would increase overall total lottery revenues by $14 million to $19 million a year, he said.
Some legislators said they feared the new game would reduce sales of existing ones by an even larger amount, but Saltzman said the state would still end up ahead if that happened.
Lottery officials also reassured legislators that the multistate game would not hurt sales of instant scratch-off tickets, whose proceeds support stadium construction.
Jason said the new game will attract more players who, in turn, will be more likely to buy instant games. Even if sales of instant games dipped, officials said, the lottery can use the proceeds of other games for the stadium fund.
In the budget year that begins in July, Maryland officials are counting on the lottery to bring $459 million to state coffers -- about $13 million more than this year. That amount includes $32 million toward the construction of the Ravens stadium in Baltimore.
Maryland decided to help launch a new multistate game in part because it does not expect to be allowed to join the states offering Powerball. Neighboring states can "blackball you," Jason said.
When he took office last year, Gov. Parris N. Glendening expressed concern about the spread of state-sanctioned pTC gambling and voted against the state buying more instant lottery ticket vending machines.
But he does not consider the addition of a multistate game to be an expansion of gambling, said Ray Feldmann, a Glendening spokesman. "This is not an expansion as much as an enhancement," he said.
Pub Date: 5/22/96