The Maryland State Lottery Commission, celebrating the first anniversary of its popular Lotto game, announced today it is sweetening this week's Lotto pot with an additional $1 million Christmas bonus accumulated from unclaimed winning tickets earlier this year.
Officials reported that the commission returned $20.8 million in Lotto revenues to the state's 23 counties and city of Baltimore -- including $7.2 million to Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- under a special legislative requirement for the first year of Lotto's operation. All future revenues go into the state's general treasury.
The $20.8 million is what was left after Lotto players across the state spent almost $86 million on the new game -- a game some critics said would hit the poor and uneducated hardest with the hope of winning quick cash. Advocates countered at the time the Lotto bill was enacted by the state General Assembly in 1982 that revenues from it were needed to offset cuts in federal social service funds.
Of the $86 million total in Lotto ticket sales, almost $43 million went in prizes to thousands of winners during the past year, including several million-dollar jackpot winners. Another $22 million went toward administrative costs, commissions to commercial ticket sellers and revenues for the state treasury.
Deloise Singletary, a former nursing home aide in Baltimore, was one of the big winners, with the first and largest Lotto jackpot of $5.5 million. On hand yesterday to cut the anniversary cake, Singletary, 55, said she has begun spending her annual $277,000 Lotto check on cars, travel and a new house in the suburbs.
She left her rented row house near Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, she said, and purchased a three-bedroom frame house in Catonsville, complete with a heated swimming pool with a plexiglass bubble top.
She bought a Mercedes for herself, plus other cars for three of her four children, she said, then took all of them and her six grandchildren to Disney World in Florida for a week last summer. "I'm not working now," she said. "I'm enjoying it now with all these grandchildren. They keep me busy."
At the press conference, lottery commission director Martin M. Puncke announced that half of the $1 million in unclaimed winning tickets will be added to this week's $1 million jackpot prize for the player (or players) correctly guessing all six digits in the Lotto game. The jackpot, paid out over 20 years, will generate about $2 million before taxes, he said.
Another $500,000 in unclaimed winning tickets, Puncke said, will be split between the so-called second- and third-tier cash prize winners, those who correctly match five or four of the Lotto numbers to be drawn Saturday.
"This is a one-shot affair," Puncke said of the million dollar sweetener this week, " . . . but if our Unclaimed Prize Fund grows again, it will be repeated." He said another $3 million in the fund must remain there as a reserve for the guaranteed Lotto jackpot of $1 million each week.
Unclaimed tickets, he said, range in value from $30 to as much as $500. "People lose their tickets . . . . They forget about them," said Puncke. He and other officials said they did not know how many tickets have gone unclaimed since the Lotto game started in October 1983. Winners have 180 days after the winning numbers are announced to collect their money.
The distribution of the $20.8 million in Lotto revenues to the counties and Baltimore was based on the percentage of Lotto sales in each jurisdiction, with the lion's share going to the Washington and Baltimore areas. Prince George's County led with $5.2 million, according to commission figures. Baltimore city was next with $3.8 million, Baltimore County with $3.4 million and Montgomery County with $2.4 million. Tiny Somerset County on the Eastern Shore received the least with $37,686.