The Maryland Lottery wants to help people dream.
While the odds of those dreams becoming a cold, hard-cash reality are more than a million-to-one, look no further than the recent Mega Millions jackpot winners from Georgia and New Jersey, who each came away with half of a stunning $390 million pot.
Last fiscal year, the Maryland Lottery generated more than $501 million for the state's general fund. These earnings benefited government-funded services and programs such as education, public health, human resources and public safety.
Of the $501 million generated for the state, the lottery actually recorded about another $1.06 billion in total ticket sales.
"The lottery's charge in the law is really one thing, to raise revenue," said Buddy Roogow, the director of the Maryland Lottery. "We try to do that in a responsible way and promote the entertainment side."
Established in 1973, the Maryland State Lottery has reported increases in both revenue and total sales for the last two fiscal years. Adding to increases in funding the state receives every year, retailers also get a piece of the pie.
In 2006, retailers who sold lottery tickets and other related games sponsored by the department reported earnings of more than $102 billion. The trickle-down effect of sales affects the economy from the state to the local level.
"The lottery is an economic engine, but it's also a revenue generator for the state," said Tori Gorman, a visiting fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Issue and former economist for the Maryland General Assembly. "And as with all states, gambling revenues are subject to fluctuation."
Ultimately, a lucky few residents get to feel the financial benefit of the prize money. Last year, players won more than $902 million, the lottery reported. The majority of this chunk was won in scratch-off games that paid out in excess of $290 million in prize money. Above all else, Roogow stresses that the games are, in the end, for fun.
"It's hard to resist enjoying the fantasy," he said. "The odds of winning are so small, this isn't an investment, this is what you want to do with a buck or two and enjoy the entertainment value."
To date, the largest winner of the Maryland lottery is by Bernadette Gietka, a mail carrier from the Essex area who won in 2003. After winning the more than $180 million after buying four tickets, Gietka continued her job as a postal worker for about two years.
"She didn't let it change her life dramatically," Roogow said. "She still tried to hold onto the things she was familiar with."