Yesterday found Mary Butler plunking down a crisp $10 bill on the counter of the Central Liquor Store downtown and hoping to get some of the last winning tickets in the D.C. instant lottery before it ends at midnight tonight.
With the promise of plenty of winning tickets left, some city merchants said they expect to sell all their remaining tickets by midnight, a week before a new lottery game is introduced.
That optimism was strongly supported at Central Liquor on 9th Street NW yesterday, where Butler, a transcriber in the nearby FBI headquarters, purchased her tickets. She said she had never been much of a lottery player after she bought her first tickets back in August and won nothing.
"I just gave up," she said as she left the store and pressed through downtown's crush of people leaving their jobs for home. But "today, I felt like taking a chance. I heard the lottery was ending, so I started getting this urging to buy some tickets."
She said she would scratch them when she got home.
Olga (Mom) Singh said Butler was typical of many who bought tickets at Central yesterday, some buying five and 10 at a time, others as many as 100.
"Quantity, they've been buying by the quantity," she said from behind her cash register, which is decorated with two blue balloons bearing the cherry blossom logo of the D.C. lottery. "It has really been busy."
An estimated 19.5 million $1-dollar tickets have been sold since the lottery began Aug. 25, according to Douglass W. Gordon, executive director of the D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board.
Initially, the first game was scheduled for eight weeks and intended to sell no more than 10 million tickets, but players wanted more tickets, so another 10 million tickets were printed and put up for sale and the game extended for an additional month.
"The one thing that really surprised us was the unexpected acceptability of this game by all segments of the Washington community," Gordon said. "Sales have been equally well in all parts of the city."
Rudolph Brewington, spokesman for Games Production Ltd., which operates Washington's lottery, said the first game had accomplished its objectives -- to provide new income for the city treasury and give its residents a new form of entertainment.
Gordon said the game has already netted the city $4.8 million and when the games ends today, that figure should swell to almost $6 million if all the lottery tickets are sold.
The rest of the money is used for operating costs and payments to winners.
Brewington said yesterday that as of Monday, 427 high-tier winning tickets remained: 357 for $100, 55 for $1,000, 15 for $10,000, and at this point an indeterminate number of low-tier winners paying $2, $5, and $10.
He estimated that as of Monday, there was as much as $500,000 in instant lottery winnings still to be paid out.
Although the game ends today, Brewington said winners will have up to a year to cash in their winning tickets. However, he urged all $100 winners to redeem their lottery tickets before 5 p.m. Nov. 16. That's the day before 20 $100 winners would be selected from a pool of all $100 winners to be the game's grand prize winners.
In addition to two $1 million winners, Brewington said there would be two $25,000 winners, two $10,000 winners and 14 persons who will win $1,000 each.
Later this week, the gambling board is expected to unveil its second instant lottery game, which begins Oct. 27 and will be similar, but not identical, to the first game, according to sources familiar with the new game.
Gloria Decker, vice president and general manager of Games Production, said that she expects the new game to be better received by the public than the first and that 30 million tickets are scheduled to be sold for the game. Some of the winning tickets are expected to be worth $20,000.
At Central Liquor counters yesterday, Ethel Holden, a cleaning lady at the Justice Department, said she "just can't wait 'til the new tickets come out." Excited by the possibility of instantly winning up to $20,000 on the new tickets, she said she's setting aside her chance for the game:
"If I hit $20,000, you won't see me no more -- Jamaica.