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Maryland a Lottery winner for 40 years

Maryland LotteryFriday marks the 40th anniversary of the first drawing of the Maryland Lottery.

Four lucky people won $50,000 each in that first drawing, held May 24, 1973 at Hopkins Plaza downtown. Tickets cost 50 cents each at the time.

In the four decades since, some have won big, others have won small, but none has won more than the state of Maryland. Lottery figures show the state has made $12.8 billion in lottery revenues, and has used the money to support a variety of state initiatives including education and public safety programs.

To continue attracting customers, the Maryland Lottery now offers many variations on the traditional lottery ticket. Monitor games like Keno and Racetrax use technology to entice players, while multistate collaborations such as Mega Millions and Powerball lure them in with huge jackpots. The addition of scratch-offs has also boosted sales, according to a 2007 financial report.

The Lottery is managed by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, which also regulates Maryland’s casinos. This year, it has a new trick up its sleeve: on June 3, the My Lottery Rewards program will begin, designed to keep players loyal by rewarding them even when they lose.

Players who create accounts with the program will accumulate points from non-winning scratch-off tickets. They can then redeem those points for prizes ranging from watches to vacuum cleaners to laptop computers.

Several other states have implemented lottery rewards programs, including Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky.

Using membership programs to increase customer loyalty has long been a successful marketing strategy. It is an especially important tactic for lotteries, because for every winner the Lottery creates, there are hundreds of disappointed players.

Another innovation for the Maryland Lottery is the Voluntary Exclusion program, which aims to help overly loyal players fight their addiction. “Problem gamblers” add their names to a confidential list and are restricted from receiving any lottery prizes.