- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

ALBANY, N.Y. New Yorkers can start buying tickets for the new multistate lottery game Mega Millions tomorrow, provided a judge doesn't nix the state's plans.
Friday's drawing for the twice-a-week game, called the Big Game since its inception in 1996, represents New York's first-ever entry into a multistate lottery. After tonight's last Big Game drawing, the game takes on the new name Mega Millions.
"Players wanted a name that better represented the magnitude of the game," said state Division of Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman. "No longer will New Yorkers have to cross the border to buy tickets."
The Big Game, its average jackpot $47 million, is played in seven states: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, Maryland and Illinois.
Because more people can play Mega Millions, its average jackpot will likely exceed $80 million and possibly grow to $500 million, Miss Hapeman said.
Ohio and New York are set to enter the renamed game this week. Washington state expects to join in September.
But more players, combined with more balls in the hopper, also means longer odds. The likelihood of winning the multistate jackpot will rise from 1 in 76 million for the Big Game to 1 in 135 million for Mega Millions.
State budget officials expect Mega Millions to generate about $145 million in revenue annually, roughly half of ticket sales. Part of that would cover administrative costs. The game should raise $125 million this fiscal year, which started April 1, Miss Hapeman said.
To win the jackpot, winners must correctly select five numbers from a field of 52, plus match a sixth number called the Gold Mega Ball from a separate field of 52. Second-prize winners, who match the first five numbers, collect $175,000. There are nine prize categories, the last being a $2 award for choosing the correct Gold Mega Ball number. The odds of winning any of those nine prizes are 1 in 43, Miss Hapeman said.
In the Big Game, players chose five numbers from 50 and a sixth number from a separate pool of 36.
State officials do not believe Mega Millions will harm sales for the state's existing Lotto, which began in 1978. Though the average Lotto jackpot is smaller less than $15 million the odds of winning it are better: 1 in 22.5 million. Grand prize Lotto winners must correctly pick six numbers out of 59. Each $1 ticket gives players two chances to win.
"Both games should appeal to a different person," Miss Hapeman said.
Last fiscal year, Lotto sales totaled $566 million.
Anti-gambling forces last month asked state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the state from participating in Mega Millions pending the outcome of another suit the group filed.
Albany lawyer Cornelius Murray, representing a coalition of anti-gambling groups and individuals, contends that the state constitution prohibits New York from entering any lottery game not exclusively run by the state. Mega Millions, like the Big Game, will be run from Atlanta.
As of yesterday , Judge Teresi had not made a ruling.
Mr. Murray's lawsuit, filed in January, challenges as unconstitutional the October 2001 law that authorizes the state to enter a multistate lottery game and allows up to six new Indian-run casinos and the placement of video slot-like machines at horse racing tracks.
"We fully expect the legislation to withstand whatever challenge," Miss Hapeman said. "We are proceeding on schedule."
Lottery officials, including popular hostess Yolanda Vega, toured the state last week with a 10-foot inflatable gold ball to publicize the new Mega Millions game.


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