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Games scratch gamblers' itch

December 11, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

If Merrill Watson ever wins big at Maryland Lottery, a mansion will not be among his purchases.

"I'd be happy with a two-bedroom rancher paid for, with a big yard and a couple dogs," said Watson, 48, of Hagerstown.

Watson plays some Keno, buys a ticket for each Mega Millions drawing and invests, with a friend, in scratch-off games.

Scratch-off games were once again the top seller in Washington County for the Maryland Lottery in the fiscal year that ended June 30. Of the $21,062,357 spent on lottery games in the county, $8.25 million were on scratch-off games, according to the Maryland Lottery.

On Wednesday, Watson cashed in his winning $1 scratch-off game at Market Lot Liquors on West Church Street and handed the $20 bill back to owner Edward Hood for a $10 scratch-off game and some cheaper scratch-off tickets.

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"We're way ahead. We got our money back. We play for the fun of it," Watson explained.

Watson said he once had a scratch-off ticket that won $200, but he still is waiting for the big windfall.

"One of these days Ed, you're going to have to write that big check for me. I'm going to put you on the map," Watson said.

A few feet away Bob Norris wasn't in as good a mood.

"Not too good," said Norris, 62, of Hagerstown.

The liquor store has a table with short wooden stools and a Quick Check machine so people can check their own tickets, but Norris preferred standing under the Keno screen that hung above the counter.

Norris said he spends one or two hours a day playing Keno and Keno Bonus, which can multiply any money won on the next Keno game.

"I'd like to make a profit. I'd like to, but I usually don't," Norris said.

Norris also likes tip jars and scratch-off games for the immediacy of knowing whether you've won.

Scratch-off games vary in cost, and therefore, in potential winnings. The store featured a wide variety from a crossword game to Double Moolah (featuring a cow) to holiday-themed games like "Cash Flurries" and "Jingle Bell Bucks."

Sue Gatten, 52, of Hagerstown, bought several Moolah scratch-off and Pick 3 tickets Wednesday.

Gatten said she spends $2 or more a day on Pick 3, depending on whether she's got a hunch on some numbers.

If she keeps seeing the same numbers pop up during her day, like on a license plate, she plays them.

The most she's won was $500.

The largest amount Hood could remember anyone winning from a lottery game purchased at Market Lot Liquors was $18,000 two years ago from Keno.

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