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Growing jackpots driving up lottery sales

August 27, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- A steady stream of customers stopped Thursday afternoon at the lottery sales counter at the back of Central City Liquors on West Washington Street.

With the Mega Millions jackpot at $325 million and the Multi-Match jackpot at a record $4 million, players are hoping to strike it rich.

"There isn't anything wrong with that," a Central City Liquors customer said of the Mega Millions jackpot.

The customer, who said he goes by the name "Lite," said the trick is figuring out the winning numbers.

"They're all invited to the party as soon as I get it," Lite said, laughing as he walked down an aisle of the store.

Players of the multi-state Mega Millions game must match the numbers on five white balls and a mega ball to win the jackpot. Tickets cost $1 a piece and the next drawing is tonight.

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In the Maryland Lottery's Multi-Match game, players select 18 numbers with four ways to match and win. Matching six numbers on a single line wins a jackpot. Tickets cost $2 and the next drawing is Saturday.

Central City Liquors workers said lottery sales have been "way up" since the jackpots have grown.

Large groups of people -- spending as much as $50 -- have stopped in the store to buy tickets, said store employee Terry Faulds, who was working at the counter where customers were buying lottery tickets and playing tip jars Thursday.

Ruth Ashkettle of Hagerstown bought eight Mega Millions tickets for her family. She said she regularly plays lottery games for a shot at jackpots.

When asked if the current Mega Millions jackpot made it more enticing, a smile came across her face.

Shirley Steele's interest Thursday was in tip jars. She sat on a stool at Central City Liquors as she ripped ticket after ticket looking for a win.

Steele, of Hagerstown, said her boyfriend plays Mega Millions.

"But if he wins, I'd collect it," she said.

When no one hit the Mega Millions jackpot drawing Tuesday night, ticket sales started picking up at the AC&T store on East Main Street in Hancock, a worker there said.

At Keedysville Country Store on Shepherdstown Pike, owner Bikram Dhillon said he just began selling Mega Millions tickets and sales have been good. Dhillon said he sold about $200 worth of tickets last Friday, his first full day of sales.

Buddy Roogow, director of the Maryland Lottery, said he did not think the large jackpots were the result of more people playing in a struggling economy. He said players have not had the winning numbers, which has allowed the jackpot to grow.

Roogow said although many lotteries in the country saw declines in sales last year, Maryland's sales increased about 1.5 percent. Roogow said he thinks the growth would have been stronger if the economy had been better.

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