Home Art & Entertainment Gambling’s winning ticket is scratch offs

Gambling’s winning ticket is scratch offs

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Lottery ticket sales and Maryland’s six casinos contributed an all-time high of $1.252 billion to Maryland’s economy in Fiscal Year 2018.

Randy Marriner is eager to maintain that trend, and acknowledges it won’t be easy.

“We’re certainly honored to be a strong source of state funding, but we don’t spend much time resting on our laurels,” said Marriner, chair of the MD Lottery and Gaming Control Commission. “Lottery and casino gaming are just two of many types of entertainment available to Marylanders, and vying for entertainment dollars is an intensely competitive business, so we’re always thinking about what comes next.”

The surprising biggest driver behind the lottery’s record-setting growth? The colorful gas station, 7-Eleven and liquor store staple: scratch-offs.

What’s the attraction? The prizes aren’t as big as those in the national jackpot games, but your chances of winning – aka instant gratification – are much higher. The odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are about 1 in 292 million. You’re much more likely to get struck by lightning. Scratch-off prizes start at $1 and top out at $2 million, but your chances of winning any prize on a scratch-off are as good as 1 in 3.

These days, maybe everyone wants to feel like a winner. Sales of Maryland Lottery scratch-off tickets have increased by double-digit rates in each of the last four fiscal years.

And Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Director Gordon Medenica believes there’s room for continued growth. Maryland’s rising scratch-off sales are part of a nationwide trend. At some of the most successful lotteries across the U.S., scratch-offs account for about 50 percent of overall sales. In Fiscal Year 2018, even after setting a new record for the fourth consecutive year, scratch-offs made up 37 percent of Maryland’s overall sales.

“Scratch-offs are readily marketable, and we’ve successfully leveraged the popularity of familiar Maryland brands, like Old Bay and the Baltimore Ravens,” Medenica said. “We’ll continue to seek out new ways to keep sales growing as we move forward.”

Where’s the money go?

In Fiscal Year 2018, lottery contributions to the state reached an all-time high of more than $575 million. Annually, the lottery is the fourth-largest contributor to Maryland’s General Fund, which provides revenue for education, public health and safety and other state programs and services.

Among the record-setting figures last fiscal year was nearly $154 million in lottery retailer commissions – an average of more than $34,000 per retailer.

Casino gaming revenue contributed more than $676 million to the state, an increase of nearly $85 million from Fiscal Year 2017. Nearly $497 million went to the Maryland Education Trust Fund.

Casino revenue also supported aid to local communities and jurisdictions where the casinos are located; the state’s horse racing industry; and responsible gaming initiatives. Since the introduction of casino gaming in Maryland in 2010, the state’s casinos have generated more than $2.7 billion for the Education Trust Fund.

What’s next?

Marriner, who continues to operate restaurants and other businesses in Howard County, said Maryland’s six casinos are each carving their own niche in an extremely competitive marketplace.

“Over the past decade, there has been a growing number of casinos cropping up throughout the northeast,” Marriner said. “With increasing competition in the regional market, our casinos are focused on developing every aspect of their operations – including both gaming and non-gaming amenities.”

Live! Casino & Hotel has thrived because it embraced its role as a locally owned business, creating strong connections with community partners, Marriner said. He added that Live! Casino’s hotel and events center, which opened in 2018, have boosted business.

“They have more than just gaming now,” Marriner said. “They’re also entertainment venues, able to host concerts and conferences, and that opens the door to bring a wide cross-section of people to the property. That additional foot traffic has been a benefit across the board.”