Washington County tops in lottery list

August 29, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

Playing the lottery is more popular in Washington County than anywhere else in the Tri-State area, lottery sales numbers show.

People spent $16.8 million on lottery games in the county last year, or $131 per person, according to the Maryland Lottery.

That's the highest rate in the seven-county Tri-State area, where people spent $63.7 million on lotteries or $111 per person.

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Lottery games just seem to sell better in Maryland, said Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Lisa Callahan.

The state leads Pennsylvania and West Virginia in sales of daily tickets where players match three numbers or four numbers.

Maryland also offers Keno, which allows players to bet on numbers drawn every 5 minutes.

"Keno and the jackpot games are very strong in Western Maryland," she said.

Although West Virginia has Keno, there aren't as many monitors on which to follow the game, she said.

On the other hand, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are strong in instant ticket sales, she said.


New video lottery machines at Charles Town Races are further cutting into sales, she said.

Gamblers bet nearly $269 million at the racetrack's new slot machines last year, according to the West Virginia Lottery. About 92 percent went back to players as winnings.

"It's evident to us there are people from other states going there," Callahan said.

West Virginia also has the draw of Powerball. When jackpots rise to the hundreds of millions, lottery players flock to that state to buy a chance.

Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania had among the lowest lottery sales rates in the area.

There are many things that could be responsible for the relative lack of interest, said Sally Danyluk, director of public relations for the Pennsylvania Lottery.

"Pennsylvania is a very conservative state" that puts more limits on games of chance, she said.

Pennsylvania's liquor stores, which are run by the state, don't sell lottery tickets like private liquor stores in the other two states, she said.

In general, rural areas like southcentral Pennsylvania have fewer lottery outlets.

Lottery is more popular in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where people grew up playing numbers games on the street, she said.

"There's a numbers culture out there that's unique," she said.

Statewide, the Pennsylvania lottery generates $714 million a year in income for programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians.

"I don't think we can complain," Danyluk said.

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