Lottery Customers Welcome Mega Millions Tickets - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Lottery Customers Welcome Mega Millions Tickets

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Ohioans quickly warmed up to the state's new multistate lottery game in its first day of sales on Wednesday, buying nearly as many tickets for Mega Millions as they did for the longtime Super Lotto Plus game.

Mega Millions had only been on sale for a few hours Wednesday morning when William Shaffer bought his first ticket at Tower City Lottery Stop in downtown Cleveland.

"If it's more than a million, I want it," the 68-year-old Clevelander said.

The first Mega Millions drawing, which promises bigger jackpots than Super Lotto Plus, is Friday and will be worth at least $25 million.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ohioans purchased more than $387,000 in Mega Millions tickets, compared with $411,000 in tickets during the same time period for the Super Lotto game, which has a drawing Wednesday night, Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Mardele Cohen said.

"We're extremely pleased with sales," she said.

The first Mega Millions ticket was sold at Woodlawn Market in Canton, which also sold the winning Super Lotto ticket to a group of Hoover Co. employees who claimed the record $75 million jackpot last month.

Ohio joined the game to raise money to help patch a $1.5 billion deficit. The state hopes to raise about $41 million a year from multistate lottery sales.

Shaffer said he'll probably play Mega Millions regularly because of its higher jackpots. He said he only played Super Lotto when the jackpots got big.

Mega Millions' predecessor, The Big Game, averaged jackpots of $35 million with a U.S. record $363 million jackpot in May 2000. Super Lotto Plus jackpots have averaged about $17 million this year.

Tower City Lottery Stop clerk Frank Russo said he's telling his regular customers about the new game.

"Everyone's playing a dollar here, a dollar there to see what it's all about," Russo said.

Across the state in Dayton, Tonya Jones, 34, bought five Mega Millions tickets at The Main Stoppe downtown.

Jones said she will now play the Mega Millions game along with the Ohio Lottery games but won't spend more.

Sales of lottery tickets were brisker than usual at Fountain News and Coffee Bar, a lottery sales outlet in downtown Cincinnati.

"Everybody's playing the Mega Millions, not the Super Lotto," said co-manager Rahul Joshi.

Cohen said the lottery will reevaluate Super Lotto in the next month and possibly drop its starting jackpot from $4 million to $1 million or $2 million.

"We are under the impression from research we have done that sales in Super Lotto will decline in some degree because of Mega Millions sales," Cohen said.

Earlier this week, a judge cleared the way for Mega Millions ticket sales by denying a request by church groups to delay Ohio's participation in new game.

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 Ohioans spent 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.

Ted Grachek, owner of Tom's a carryout in Toledo's Polish Village neighborhood said he was glad Ohio joined a multistate game with bigger payouts. He said he got tired of seeing customers crossing the state line.

"A lot of my customers have been taking a lot of good Ohio money into Michigan," he said.

Drawings in the $1 Mega Millions 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.

The odds of winning in the Mega Millions game are one in 135 million compared with one in 13.9 million in Super Lotto Plus.

Mega Millions players select five numbers from one pool of numbers from 1 to 52, and an additional number from a second pool of numbers, also from 1 to 52. A player with all six numbers drawn gets the top prize, which starts at $5 million.

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

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