Maryland Lottery sales top $1.5 billion for first time


Maryland Lottery sales topped $1.5 billion for the first time in the fiscal year that ended in June, a jump of more than 5 percent from the year before, lottery director Buddy Roogow said yesterday.

More than $501 million in revenue is headed to the state's coffers, exceeding budget estimates by $10 million, Roogow said. Most is earmarked for the general fund, but more than $20 million will go toward the stadium fund. The lottery is the state's third-largest revenue source.

State revenue, player prizes and payouts to retailers all increased by about 5 percent from last year's figures, Roogow said. Players took home more than $900 million in prizes.

"We have been growing fairly consistently in the past eight or nine years," Roogow said, noting that lottery sales have increased every year for the past nine years. But the lottery does not always exceed budget estimates.

Roogow attributed the strong sales to attractive scratch-off cards and more second-chance prizes. Keno and scratch-offs continued to be the lottery's top revenue sources, each bringing in more than $100 million more than Pick 3, the third-most-popular game.

Several jackpots in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the fall and winter led to a sharp increase in sales of the multistate Mega Millions game, Roogow said. "That game is captive to the jackpot," he said.

Last week, after months of sporadic lottery outages, the state introduced a satellite system, which officials say will be more reliable and cost-effective. Scientific Games Inc., a private contractor, bought satellites and new terminals for 95 percent of the state's lottery retailers. The remaining retailers, which are prevented from using satellites for a variety of reasons, will have wireless or DSL connections provided by the company, Roogow said.

In the previous fiscal year, the state paid $4.5 million to Verizon for system connections and about $10 million to Scientific Games to manage games. Under the terms of the new contract, the state would pay about $14 million to Scientific Games for the same number of sales.

In an effort to improve sales, the state designed new Keno screens, frequently introduces several new scratch-off cards and recently revamped Lotto, long the laggard among lottery games.

In February, lottery officials revamped Lotto, creating more chances to win smaller prizes, and called it Multi-Match. Yet, combined sales for Lotto and Multi-Match were less than 10 percent of Keno sales for the fiscal year.

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