The Maryland Lottery Commission agreed today to create a new "instant" lottery game that Gov. Harry Hughes plans to use to help balance the revenue-starved new budget he will submit to the legislature next week.
The new lottery, which the agency agreed to begin as soon as possible, will involve the sale of $1 tickets with a latex covering that buyers can rub off to determine immediately whether they have won, officials said.
The agency agreed to run three separate rub-off games during the next 18 months, and to print 20 million $1 tickets for each of them. Officials said that if all the tickets were sold, the games would bring the state about $30 million, in new revenue.
Hughes, who in recent weeks has been preparing a budget for the year beginning July 1 that he has said will contain sharp program cuts because of a sudden decline in state revenues, agreed late last month to support the new lottery games, "even though he does not generally like the idea of expanding the lottery," his spokesman Gene Oishi said today.
Hughes in fact already has included the anticipated new lottery revenue in the budget he will submit to the legislature next Wednesday, Oishi said.
Hughes agreed to support the increased lottery at the time he was completing the new budgets for the state Medicaid program and Department of Health and Human Services, which faced deficits without either large cutbacks or additional funding, Oishi said.
In a press conference yesterday, Hughes said that he had left several major items, including employes' pay raises and an increase in welfare benefits, out of the budget because of fiscal pressures and was still looking for ways to obtain additional funds for these expenses without raising taxes.
The lottery agency operated a similar instant rub-off game for 10 weeks in 1979. The agency sold $20 million worth of the tickets in 10 weeks and netted $9 million on the operation, officials said today.
Lottery officials said that the new game was proposed following a study of several different possible new lottery games. The rub-off game was approved unanimously by the three agency commissioners attending today's meeting in Baltimore.