ANNAPOLIS – The appeal of a rags to riches story has never been more desirable than now.
With a faltering economy dominating the minds and wallets of many, and stores predicting flat sales during the holiday season, Marylanders are spending less on retail goods. Yet local vendors agree on one thing.
Lottery sales have increased this year.
According to the Maryland Lottery, instant scratch-off sales are up almost $45 million from this time last year. Overall lottery sales are up by almost $10 million during the first 10 months of this year.
Higher sales figures for the year don’t necessarily mean the bad economy has not had an effect. In September and October, when the stock market began its nosedive, instant scratch-off sales were lower than they had been all year.
In fact, September saw every lottery game bring in less money than the previous month. So far, it has been the second worst month for the Maryland Lottery this year.
Vendors have since seen a noticeable increase in sales.
“We’ve picked up a lot [lately],” said Kim Vincent, owner of South River Liquors in Edgewater. “We were really slow the last few months, and I thought it was because of the economy, but the economy is still bad.”
Avid lottery players admit that the economy is more on their mind than usual.
“I’m more conscious of my money,” said Cheryl Tate, of Edgewater, as she worked on a scratch-off last month. “But then again, I am a gambler.”
Although Vincent no longer believes the economy had a significant impact on the slow September sales, she said she occasionally overhears people saying they need to win to pay their rent.
According to figures from the Maryland State Lottery Agency, overall lottery sales for 2008 are running slightly ahead of 2007.
But unlike last year, there was a wide fluctuation of sales in the summer months. June 2008, the month that gas reached $4 a gallon, saw lottery sales total approximately $127 million, the lowest monthly intake in more than a year.
“Four dollar gas was a benchmark,” said Buddy W. Roogow, director of the Maryland Lottery.
Roogow said the Maryland Lottery is keeping a watchful eye on failing businesses that sell lottery tickets, to see if it becomes a trend.
Brandon Petenbrink, a cashier at South River Liquors in Edgewater, said that he felt lottery sales were steady in recent months, but acknowledged that more customers seemed to be playing with high hopes.
“They’re looking for that big dream,” he said.