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Many buy tickets for the scratch

January 09, 2003|by ASHLEY GORDON

ashleyg@herald-mail.com

Maryland rang up more than $1.3 billion in lottery sales in the 2002 fiscal year that ended June 31, and scratch-off game sales accounted for more than $298 million of that amount, Maryland Lottery spokesman Jimmy White said.

Scratch-off tickets were popular in Washington County, accounting for $7.5 million of the county's roughly $21 million in lottery ticket sales, White said.

Shannon Coble, 24, of Hagerstown, said she buys about two $2 scratch-off tickets three times a month. She said she buys a few tickets at a time because "the odds are better."

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She said she once won $1,000 playing Hot Cherries. Coble said she plays because she likes the suspense of scratching the tickets.

White said the variety of games, better odds and better payouts have made scratch-off games a hit.

A variety of 30 to 40 brightly-colored scratch-off tickets are sold and a new type of ticket is printed every six months, White said. The themes of these games vary from sports to niche, such as Betty Boop, to holiday, and the time it takes to play each game varies from a few seconds to 30 minutes with "extended play" games such as Slingo and Crossword, he said.

Ticket prices are $1, $2, $3, $5, and $10, with top prizes ranging from $1,000 to $1 million, White said.

Pat Gross, of Hagerstown, said she buys $1 scratch-off cards once a week as a "fun way to pass the time."

Although she won at most $10 on a card, Gross said she continues to play because a scratch-off card is a fun game that can be played anywhere at any time.

Mark Brown of Hagerstown said that along with Keno and MegaMillions tickets, he buys five $5 scratch-off cards a week, even though the most he has won on a scratch-off game is $100. He said he keeps playing because it's exciting.

Two $10 scratch-off games are Vegas, with a top prize of $500,000, and Cash Encounters, with a top prize of $1 million.

Cash Encounters is a second-chance game, which means losing tickets can be mailed to the address printed on the back for other chances to win money, White said.

On the Maryland Lottery Web site, Maryland Lottery Director Buddy Roogow describes the New Year's Eve broadcast of the drawing for the finalists in the Cash Encounters scratch-off game.

Fifteen contestants were chosen from 60,000 entries. Six of those contestants won on that broadcast, including Sharon Gatten, of Hagerstown, according to the Web site.

These six people will be paired with 14 other finalists chosen from drawings in October through May for a chance to win $1 million on a game show in May, White said.

Staff writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this story.

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