ANNAPOLIS – Bob Janus wandered into the Greenbelt Variety store in July in search of a newspaper. He left the store with the paper – and another $407 in his pocket.
Janus, 64, is one of more than 50 people who have become instant actors – and received quick compensation – for TV spots for the Maryland Lottery’s scratch-off instant games.
Janus’ case is typical: When the Greenbelt resident entered the store, he found a woman with a clipboard handing out free scratch-off lottery tickets. He agreed to stand in front of a camera so lottery officials could record his reaction to any wins as part of their “ScratchCam” ad campaign.
The first ticket that Janus scratched off was a $5 winner; the second one a $2 winner. But his participation in the 10- second spots won Janus an even bigger prize: As an actor, he was entitled to a $400 actor’s fee from the Screen Actors Guild.
“It was like winning twice,” said Janus, an administrator with the Special Education Department of the Prince George’s County Public Schools. “Apparently I was crazy enough to get on TV.”
The Maryland Lottery has been promoting scratch-off games with these TV ads since July and will run them until the end of June 1999, said David Blum, a vice president with Eisner and Associates, the advertising firm handling the campaign.
Each weekday, a new ad airs during the evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates in Maryland and the District. The ad featuring Janus airs Friday.
Lottery officials said they are promoting scratch-off games because participants are more likely to win with these games – introduced in Maryland in 1976 – than with any other Maryland Lottery game. They’re using real people in the ads because they hope to draw genuine reactions while taping.
Sharon Burton, a spokeswoman for the Compulsive Gambling Center in Baltimore, which treats compulsive gambling addictions, said because the ad campaign focuses on small winners, not big, it may actually help their cause.
“In a small way, this could encourage responsible gambling, because it shows that real people really do lose,” she said.
About 12 percent of the 430,000 scratch-off tickets sold each day are winners, said Jimmy White, a spokesman for the Maryland Lottery. Most scratch-off winnings are for $2, $5, $10, $20 and $50, he said. The ticket prices range from $1 to $5.
The maximum amount gamblers can win differs from game to game, but in most games it is $100,000, White said.
Lottery officials say the promotional campaign was launched this summer despite increasing revenues. During fiscal year 1998, the Maryland Lottery received more than $1.6 billion in revenue – up slightly from $1.4 billion in fiscal 1997.
Revenue from scratch-off tickets increased from $47.8 million in fiscal year 1997 to $50.1 million in fiscal year 1998, White said. That’s an increase of about 5 percent.
Since the ads started running, the sales of scratch-off tickets have increased another 5 percent, Blum said.
In 1998, almost 53 percent of the money from Maryland Lottery games was returned as prize winnings; 37 percent was placed in the state’s treasury, White said. The other 10 percent went for operational and agent costs, he said.