Bigger Jackpot Means Bigger Sales For Mega Millions

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The bigger the jackpot, the bigger the sales.

Sales of tickets for the multistate Mega Millions game, Ohio's newest addition to its lottery menu, spiked this week as the game's jackpot surpassed $100 million for the first time since it started in Ohio in May.

"We're doing pretty darn well right now," Mardele Cohen, an Ohio Lottery spokeswoman, said Thursday. "The sales are definitely moving."

Drawings in the Mega Millions game are held Tuesday and Friday nights.

The state recorded $2.5 million in sales for the July 5 drawing, which was for a $96 million jackpot. For Tuesday's drawing, the state had $3.6 million in sales for a $115 million jackpot.

The jackpot stands at $138 million for Friday's drawing, and lottery officials are projecting $4.1 million in sales.

To boost sales even more, representatives of the nine states that are part of Mega Millions are considering whether to raise the jackpot by another couple of million, Cohen said.

They decided against raising the jackpot during a conference call Thursday but still may increase it on Friday, she said.

Gov. Bob Taft and state lawmakers approved Ohio's participation in a multistate game in December to help fill a $1.5 billion hole in the budget. The state hopes to generate revenue totaling $41 million a year from Mega Millions.

The Rev. John Edgar, a Columbus minister with the United Methodist Church, said such high jackpots do more harm than good.

"When the jackpot goes very high, it entices more people to gamble and lose money," Edgar said. "It also encourages new people to gamble, which is extremely harmful."

He accused the state of using the high jackpots to entice more Ohioans, especially poor people who can't afford to lose money, to gamble.

"It's reprehensible," Edgar said.

The church is part of a coalition that has sued the state over its decision to join the multistate game, arguing that the Ohio Constitution permits only a lottery run exclusively by Ohio with no involvement by other states.

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 135 million.

Eight other states -- Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Virginia -- are part of Mega Millions. The state of Washington expects to join in September.

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