Judge: Multistate Lottery Can Proceed For Now

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The first Mega Millions multistate lottery drawing involving Ohio is on for Friday.

A judge on Monday denied a request by church groups to delay the start of ticket sales. Tickets go on sale Wednesday for the Friday drawing.

Church groups and anti-gambling activists have sued the state over the state's decision to join the multistate game. The lawsuit argues that the Ohio Constitution permits only a lottery run exclusively by Ohio with no involvement by other states.

The groups had asked Judge Daniel Hogan of Franklin County Common Pleas Court to delay the lottery until the trial on the lottery's constitutionality was complete. Hogan is presiding over the bench trial.

A final ruling is not expected for several weeks.

Gov. Bob Taft and state lawmakers approved Ohio's participation in a multistate game last December to help patch a $1.5 billion deficit. The state hopes to raise about $41 million a year from multistate lottery sales.

Lottery opponents, who say state lotteries make money off the poor, argue that adding a multistate game makes a bad situation worse.

But supporters say the new game is needed to make Ohio's lottery profits more stable and believe participation in the multistate game will bring home some of the $200 million to $250 million that Ohioans spend yearly on out-of-state lotteries.

Other states taking part in the Mega Millions game are Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Virginia in the Big Game.

Drawings in the $1 game are held Tuesday and Friday at 11 p.m. in Atlanta. The Ohio Lottery will continue holding its daily midday and early evening drawings Monday through Saturday.

Mega Millions players select five numbers from 1 to 50 and a second single number from 1 through 36. A player with all six numbers drawn gets the top prize, which starts at $5 million and has gone as high as a U.S. record $363 million in May 2000.

Ohio considered joining the multistate Powerball game but chose the Mega Millions, formerly the Big Game, which involves mid-sized and large states, because of its prospect of bigger jackpots more frequently, the Ohio Lottery said. Powerball has just one of the nation's top 10 media markets, Washington, D.C.

Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia play Powerball, and Pennsylvania recently applied to join. That border configuration should help Ohio attract out-of-state bettors to Mega Millions jackpots, Ohio Lottery Director Dennis Kennedy has said.

In addition to bringing home Ohio bettors who have sought big out-of-state jackpots, Kennedy said Ohio Lottery border outlets should see a boost in business as players do shopping that they might have done while buying lottery tickets in other states.

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