ANNAPOLIS – Lawmakers heard Wednesday how state lottery officials intend to fight sagging lottery sales, which since July 1 have dropped off $22.3 million – or 6.8 percent – compared to the same period last year.
Efforts to spur sales include the introduction of two new games and increased advertising, especially of the Pick 3 and instant games. These sales, along with falling Lotto sales, are causing lottery and state budget officials the most concern.
Buddy Roogow, director of the Maryland State Lottery Agency, cited Powerball’s large jackpots as well as Virginia’s significantly greater advertising as primary reasons for Maryland’s falling lottery sales.
But he thinks he has the formula to fix the decline.
“I can tell you, we are going to be more aggressive in management and promotion,” Roogow told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
Roogow, who has been in his position for only four days, informed the committee that on Monday his agency will initiate two new games.
One is designed to promote Pick 3 sales by giving away seven free evening tickets to those who buy six midday tickets. The other is an instant game whose winner could receive up to $2 million or one of 100 four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Roogow said Pick 3 has been declining over a number of years, but added that increased advertising, especially in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, would help.
Regarding Lotto, Roogow said he is concerned that the public is receiving an ambiguous message about why jackpots have not been increasing recently. Normally, Lotto rolls over when there is no winner, but recent sales have slumped so much that the jackpot has slumped with them, he said.
“The public needs to know if the jackpot is going to rise or understand why it’s not,” Roogow said in an interview.
When this happens, Roogow said, the public naturally looks for bigger jackpots, such as those available in Powerball. Maryland does not participate in Powerball, a multi-state game available in the District of Columbia.
Maryland’s alternative to Powerball, The Big Game, involves five other states and was supposed to draw Powerball buyers by generating big jackpots.
However, the Big Game has yet to catch on.
David Roose, a budget analyst with the Department of Fiscal Services, said that since its introduction on Aug. 31, Big Game has generated sales of $4.5 million, compared to $6.9 million for Lotto.
Roose told lawmakers the state can expect $68 million less in lottery sales and $17 million less in revenues for Fiscal Year 1997.
In an interview, Roose said his department originally projected $1.135 billion in total lottery sales this fiscal year, but has revised that estimate downward to $1.067 billion. Roose added that the state was anticipating $383.5 million in lottery revenue, after $32 million went toward stadium payments. But now that figure is projected to be $366.6 million, he said. -30-