Ohio Lottery's Super Lotto Plus Jackpot Grows To Record $70 Million

By M.R. KROPKO, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - The biggest prize ever offered in an Ohio Lottery game, $56 million, is getting even bigger.

No tickets had the right combination of six numbers Wednesday night, meaning Saturday night's Super Lotto Plus drawing will be $70 million, lottery spokeswoman Mardele Cohen said.

"I'm so excited right now, I'm going to sit down with the phone book and call everybody I know," she said.

Her enthusiasm wasn't dampened by the fact that the Ohio Lottery's top prize is overshadowed by prospects of even larger jackpots on the horizon.

With Ohio about to join a multistate game that predicts jackpots averaging $80 million, the record Super Lotto Plus prize didn't seem to generate as much excitement as anticipated.

Alan Cox, 34, assistant manager at a Discount Drug Mart in Lakewood, a Cleveland suburb, said the store's Super Lotto business was consistent but not overwhelming Wednesday.

"I would say it's a little busier than normal. We've had a line all day," Cox said. It was not unusual, he said, for a typical player to wager at least $10.

Before the 7:30 p.m. drawing, the Ohio Lottery was selling Super Lotto Plus tickets at a rate about $23,000 per minute, said lottery spokesman Mike Bycko.

Sales for the drawing totaled $13 million. Sales just on Wednesday were projected to reach $8 million, Cohen said.

In comparison, sales were $3 million on March 24 alone, when the prize was $16 million.

Saturday's $70 million jackpot is the result of 13 consecutive drawings without a winner. Cohen said strong sales supported the $14 million jump for the game that has two drawings a week.

Gus Malkieh, manager of M & S Carry Out in Columbus, said the store may have to hire additional clerks to handle the lottery. The store was already selling Saturday lottery tickets on Wednesday night after putting up signs advertising the new record jackpot.

"Today was a big day. Now what's going to happen Saturday? Who knows? It's going to be crazy," Malkieh said.

The previous top Ohio Lottery jackpots were $54 million last July, when two winning tickets were sold, and October 1990, when one person claimed a $50 million jackpot but assigned some of it to others.

The odds of winning the six-of-six jackpot out of a possible 49 numbers are one in 13.9 million. It costs $1 to play one combination.

Cohen said at least two-thirds of the combinations were covered Wednesday night, meaning the lottery figured a "66 percent change there would be a winner."

The record jackpot drawing coincided with the announcement that the Big Game multistate lottery that Ohio is joining will begin a Mega Millions game with a minimum jackpot of $10 million, average jackpots of $80 million and a potential jackpot of more than $500 million.

The sales in Ohio for the new game will start May 15. Drawings will occur each Tuesday and Friday in Atlanta.

The Big Game states are Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and newcomers New York and Ohio.

"We feel that it will have an impact on Super Lotto, but we are not sure what that will be," Cohen said. "We are estimating perhaps a 20 percent drop."

Lottery profit in Ohio is used for education. Cohen said the lottery has estimated $41 million in additional profit for fiscal year 2003 starting July 1, a figure that takes into account a possible decline in Super Lotto sales.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)