By Randy Ray

The Maryland Lottery was launched in 1973, making it one of the oldest state lottery programs in America. Run by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, the lottery was instituted as a way of adding state revenue without adding to the taxpayer burden. Since that time, the MLGCA has expanded to operate VLTs, slot machines, table games, and a statewide sportsbook.

Here’s the current list of games available from the Maryland Lottery:

  • Pick 3 / Pick 4 / Pick 5
  • Bonus Match 5
  • Racetrax
  • Keno
  • Cash4Life
  • Powerball
  • Mega Millions
  • FAST PLAY
  • Scratch-Offs

Maryland’s $4.3 billion in annual lottery sales places it firmly in the top 10 among American lottery programs. You might think most of that income flows in from lottery-regulated casino games like slots and blackjack, but that’s not the case. Maryland’s revenue comes about equally from instant games, casino games, and draw lottery, with each contributing about 25%. The balance of their proceeds come from so-called monitor games (Keno and Racetrax) and multi-state draw games.

The average adult in Maryland spends about $410 a year on lottery games, good enough for 8th highest in the country. Maryland has the highest per capita median household income in the country – lots of expendable income generally leads to higher lottery sales. Maryland’s relatively low payout rate (69% across all lottery games) is also a big reason for the system’s big profits. Neighboring Massachusetts pays out about 73% across all lottery games and reports less revenue as a result.

Maryland’s administrative costs are high relative to other US states – nearly 4% of lottery sales go toward running the program. That’s typical for a state lottery that also runs casinos and other forms of gambling. Doing business in more markets leads to greater costs. Still, nearly $3 billion a year is distributed among needy state agencies.

What does Maryland do with all this lottery cash? Hundreds of millions of dollars a year flow to the state’s general fund, with another $20 million or so bolstering the school budgets in urban areas like Baltimore. The rest is split among various causes, which the legislature adjusts from time to time.

As one of the most progressive state lottery systems in America, what happens with the Maryland Lottery eventually trickles down to smaller states. Within a few years of Maryland launching their monitor games Keno and Racetrax, those games became ubiquitous in the American lottery. Watch for other states to begin to regulate things like sports betting and casino gambling through their existing lottery agencies.

Probability, Return to Player, and the Maryland Lottery

The lottery is a game of chance, meaning you’re placing a simple wager hoping for a prize larger than what you paid. There’s no real skill to lottery play, outside of a few rare instances of lottery-style video poker and other casino games. For the most part, when you play the lottery, it’s you vs. Lady Luck.

Understanding the lottery means understanding probability. For the most part, lottery players can get by with just a few simple math terms under their belt. When we talk about lottery game odds, we’re most likely talking about overall odds of winning or something called return to player. These are basically two ways of describing the same feature of a game – its relative likelihood of paying out a win.

A game’s return to player (sometimes shortened to RTP) is expressed a percentage. That percentage tells you how much of each $1 you bet on the game is likely to be returned to you in the form of winnings. A typical lottery scratch off ticket may have an RTP of something like 25%, which means you’ll typically win about $0.25 for every $1 you spend on that game.

Another way of looking at a games relative odds is called overall odds of winning. This is printed on the back of most lottery tickets – it tells you how mathematically likely it is that a given ticket is a winner. The scratch off ticket described above, with an RTP of about 25%, has overall odds of winning around 1 in 3.9. That means one in every 3-4 tickets you buy will reward you with some level of prize.

Understand that all these figures are mathematical representations of what might happen, not guarantees of performance. Your real-world results will vary a little from the posted overall odds.

How to Play the Maryland Lottery (Buying Tickets & Drawing Schedules)

Below is a guide to each of Maryland Lottery’s 10 draw games, along with thoughts on the state’s other lottery offerings, such as instant tickets and monitor games.

Pick 3 / Pick 4 / Pick 5

Maryland Lottery offers three different Pick style games, each drawn twice a day.

Pick 3, Pick 4, and Pick 5 are classic Pick games in which players pick from a small pool of numbers, attempting to match to the numbers drawn by the lottery. Compared to traditional draw games, Pick games like Pick 3, Pick 4, and Pick 5 offer a lot more variety.

For starters, bets are available in multiple denominations between $0.50 and $5 per unit. Also, bettors pick a betting type. Below is a quick breakdown of each of the Pick betting types available in Maryland:

  • straight – match all numbers in exact order
  • box – match numbers in any order
  • straight/box – match either exact or in any order
  • front pair – match the first two numbers in exact order
  • back pair – match the last two numbers in exact order

To play Pick 3, bettors choose a set of three numbers between 0 and 9. Pick 4 requires bettors pick four numbers between 0 and 9. Pick 5 bettors pick 5 numbers between 0 and 9.  Bettors can also let the computer generate their numbers randomly.

All three games are drawn twice a day – the midday drawing is at 12:27 PM Eastern Time and the evening drawing is at 7:56 PM Eastern Time, except on Sunday nights, when the evening drawing is at 8:22 PM Eastern Time. Ticket sales are cut off 15 minutes before each drawing.

All Pick 3, Pick 4, and Pick 5 prizes must be claimed within 90 days of the drawing date.

For a guide to the complicated paytables and odds for these games, check out Maryland Lottery’s Pick3/Pick4/Pick 5 page.

Bonus Match 5

Bonus Match 5 is a draw game with a top prize that hovers around $200,000. If no one wins the top prize, the prize amount rolls down to the lower prize levels, resulting in larger than usual winnings for second and third prize. Bonus Match 5 is a $1 per ticket game.

To play Bonus Match 5, buy a ticket for $1 and choose five numbers between 1 and 36. You can choose your own numbers or use the random number generator called the quick pick at the lottery retailer.

Bonus Match 5 is an excellent example of a pari-mutuel game. That means that the prize amounts vary based on how many lottery tickets are sold and how many people have won. The basic paytable looks like this:

  • Match all five numbers and win the top prize, about $200,000. The odds of winning are 1 in 376,992.
  • Match four out of five numbers and win second prize, about $107. The odds of winning are 1 in 2432.
  • Match three out of five numbers and win third prize, about $10. The odds of winning are 1 in 81.
  • Match two out of five numbers and win fourth prize, which is a free ticket. The odds of winning are 1 in 8.

With those prize amounts in place, the return to player for Bonus Match 5 is 82.3%, making this one of the best lottery draw games in the country in terms of return to player.

Bonus Match 5 is drawn at 7:56 PM Eastern Time every night of the week.

Racetrax

Racetrax combines a keno-like lottery gamer with a computer-animated horse race for a unique lottery gaming experience.

Each races lasts under a minute. You can watch on a monitor as the twelve animated horses (each with fixed probabilities of winning) race on an animated course. Bettors have a wide range of betting choices much like what you’d find at a traditional racing track – win/place/show, trifectas, quinellas, etc.

Check out Maryland Lottery’s Racetrax page for more details on odds and betting options.

Racetrax is drawn every 5 minutes between 4 AM and 2:50 AM seven days a week.

Keno

Maryland’s Keno game is similar to casino-style keno. It’s drawn multiple times a day, seven days a week. Players bet against a computer-generated set of numbers in a game that’s part bingo, part lottery draw, and part casino game.

Keno’s bets and payouts are complicated. Players can wager $1, $2, $3, $4, or $5 per game, with a variety of playing styles and betting choices. If you’re familiar with casino Keno, you know how to play this Maryland Lottery version.

Check out Maryland Lottery’s Keno page for more specifics.

Keno is drawnevery four minutes between 4 AM and 2:50 AM Eastern Time.

Cash4Life

The Maryland Lottery participates in Cash4Life, a multi-state draw lottery game famous for its fixed annuitized top prize that’s worth $1,000 a day “for life.” Cash4Life also has traditional fixed lottery jackpots.

Cash4Life tickets cost $2. There’s no multiplier or other option that increases the ticket cost. The goal is to match your 5 numbers to the 5 numbers drawn. Four of the numbers are between 1 and 48, and the fifth number is the Lucky Ball, between 1 and 18.

Cash4Life payouts are determined by the number of matches. Here’s the paytable:

  • Match all six balls to win $1,000 a day for life – odds of 1 in 30.8 million
  • Match 5 balls to win $25,000 a year for life – odds of 1 in 1.8 million
  • Match 4 balls with the Lucky Ball to win $5,000 – odds of 1 in 143,355
  • Match 4 balls to win $200 – odds of 1 in 8,432
  • Match 3 balls with the Lucky Ball to win $150 – odds of 1 in 3,413
  • Match 3 balls to win $20 – odds of 1 in 200
  • Match 2 balls with the Lucky Ball to win $25 – odds of 1 in 249
  • Match 2 balls to win $3 – odds of 1 in 14
  • Match 1 ball with the Lucky Ball to win $6 – odds of 1 in 49
  • Match only the Lucky Ball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 32

Overall odds of winning any prize on a Cash4Life ticket – 1 in 8. Theoretically, that means about 12.5% of all tickets are winners.

Cash4Life drawings are held at 9:38 PM Central time on Mondays and Thursdays. The cutoff time for each drawing is 8:30 PM Central time on the night of the drawing. Tickets purchased after that time will be considered as part of the following drawing.

Powerball & Mega Millions

The Maryland Lottery joined Powerball in 2010 when that game last expanded in a big way. Maryland was also instrumental in the launch of Mega Millions, having been a part of that system since that game was called The Big Game. Maryland is not alone in offering both of these huge multi-state lottery draw games – most US lottery programs now participate in one or both.

Not only do Powerball and Mega Millions regularly set records in terms of jackpots and winnings, but they have a lot of other similarities as well. Their overall odds of winning are usually as close to identical as you can get. Both tickets cost $2 and allow a $1 multiplier option. They both use a pool of six numbers to determine payouts.

That’s where things start to get a little different. Powerball players pick between the numbers 1 and 69, while Mega Millions bettors pick between the numbers 1 and 70. That means Powerball has one fewer number in the pool, increasing player odds relative to Mega Millions. However, reducing the number pool by just one of 70 numbers makes very little statistical difference. The typical casual lottery player shouldn’t be that worried about a few tenths of a percent in odds.

Look at the game’s two pay tables for further evidence of their similarity.

Mega Millions Paytable

  • Match all six balls to win the jackpot (min. $20 million) – odds of 1 in 302.5 million
  • Match all five balls to win $1 million – odds of 1 in 12.6 million
  • Match four balls and the Mega Ball to win $10,000 – odds of 1 in 931,000
  • Match four balls to win $500 – odds of 1 in 38,792
  • Match three balls and the Mega Ball to win $200 – odds of 1 in 14,547
  • Match three balls to win $10 – odds of 1 in 606
  • Match two balls and the Mega Ball to win $10 – odds of 1 in 693
  • Match one ball and the Mega Ball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 89
  • Match the Mega Ball to win $2 – odds of 1 in 24

Overall odds of winning on a given Mega Millions ticket – 1 in 24. That means about 4% of all Mega Millions tickets are winners. Understand that most of these wins will be break-even prizes of $2. Understand also that those odds figures are theoretical, and your real-world results are likely to vary a little bit over the short-term.

Powerball Paytable

  • Match all six balls to win the jackpot (min. $20 million) – odds of 1 in 292.2 million
  • Match five balls to win $1 million – odds of 1 in 11.68 million
  • Match four balls and the Powerball to win $50,000 – odds of 1 in 913,000
  • Match four balls to win $100 – odds of 1 in 36,525.17
  • Match three balls and the Powerball to win $100 – odds of 1 in 14,494.11
  • Match three balls to win $7 – odds of 1 in 579.76
  • Match two balls and the Powerball to win $7 – odds of 1 in 701.33
  • Match one ball and the Powerball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 91.98
  • Match the Powerball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 38.32

Overall odds of winning any prize on a Powerball ticket – 1 in 24.87. Theoretically, that means just about 4% of all Powerball tickets are winners.

The games are slightly different but their overall odds remain about the same. Big multi-state draw games like this tend to see big odds shifts when the top prize grows. That means there’s sometimes a larger than usual difference between the game’s two jackpot amounts, and therefore their game odds. Check jackpots and overall odds before you buy – sometimes, Powerball is a slightly better buy than Mega Millions, and vice versa.

Powerball numbers are drawn every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday night at 10:59 PM Eastern Time. Mega Millions numbers are drawn every Tuesday and Friday night at 11 PM Eastern Time.

FAST PLAY

FAST PLAY tickets are like instant-win draw lottery games, or scratch-off tickets with no scratching required. Maryland Lottery maintains a library of around ten games, each of which prints out from lottery terminals at select Maryland Lottery retailers. You could think of these as electronic versions of pull-tab games.

At the time of this post, FAST PLAY is available in the following denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, and $20.

Scratch-Offs

The Maryland Lottery’s scratch-off library currently holds 71 different games in 7 denominations. Below is a breakdown of their scratch-off library by denominations and average overall odds of winning:

  • 9 $1 games – average odds of 1 in 4.4
  • 10 $2 games – average odds of 1 in 3.78
  • 6 $3 games – average odds of 1 in 3.61
  • 18 $5 games – average odds of 1 in 3.43
  • 17 $10 games – average odds of 1 in 3.31
  • 7 $20 games – average odds of 1 in 3.01
  • 4 $30 games – average odds of 1 in 2.99

Typically, scratch-off games stay on the market for less than a year; special edition tickets, such as those issued for holidays or to celebrate sports teams, are likely to be on the market for even less time.

Here’s a look at a typical pay table for a Maryland Lottery scratch-off ticket, the $5 Lucky ticket with a top prize of $50,000:

  • $50,000 – odds of 1 in 200.05
  • $1,000 – odds of 1 in 1,606.53
  • $500 – odds of 1 in 800.2
  • $300 – odds of 1 in 239.89
  • $100 – odds of 1 in 40.01
  • $20 – odds of 1 in 15
  • $5 – odds of 1 in 7.5

Overall odds of winning on each Lucky ticket – 1 in 3.79. Theoretically, that means about 26% of all Lucky tickets are winners. Remember that this is a theoretical possibility, not a guarantee.

Where to Buy Maryland Lottery Tickets

There are more than 4,400 Maryland Lottery retailers in various parts of the state, mainly convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and grocery stores. The Maryland Lottery maintains a Retailer Locator tool that lets you search by zip code or use your current location to find a retailer near you.

How to Claim Maryland Lottery Prizes

All Maryland Lottery retailers will redeem winning tickets up to $600, provided they have the cash on hand to do so.

Winning tickets worth $601 – $5,000 can be redeemed at any of the state’s Expanded Cashing Authority Program (XCAP) retailers. The state runs 400 or so XCAP locations, and you can find one near you using this XCAP retailer locator tool.

Winning tickets of any prize amount can be redeemed at the Maryland Lottery office at 1800 Washington Boulevard in Baltimore.

If you have a winning ticket worth $25,000 or more, you’re required to redeem your prize at the main Lottery office as described above. You have to make an appointment, which you can also do online. Maryland authorities point out several times that it may take up to 15 business days for a prize worth $25,000 or more to make its way to you.

To process a lottery payment by mail, download a claim form and mail it to:

Maryland Lottery Customer Resource Center
1800 Washington Boulevard
Suite 330
Baltimore, MD 21230

If you’re claiming a prize of more than $600 by mail, include a copy of your state-issued photo ID as well as a copy of a document that shows proof of your social security number.

Please note that when you claim any Maryland Lottery prize of $601 or more, you’ll be asked to show proof of your social security number or tax ID.

Contact the Maryland Lottery

The easiest way to contact the Maryland Lottery is to use the contact form on their website. This is best for general information, such as game results, prize claim questions, and other basic customer service questions.

Maryland Lottery operates a 24-hour toll-free phone number that gives general information about winning numbers and prizes and is staffed by live customer support staff during normal business hours: 1-800-201-0108.

Maryland citizens can use a local number to contact the state’s lottery program: 410.230.8800.

Here’s the mailing address for the Maryland Lottery:

Montgomery Business Park
1800 Washington Blvd.
Suite 330
Baltimore, MD 21230

Conclusion

Maryland Lottery boasts the most payouts to retail vendors, and frequently uses promotions to drive and attract new interest. Maryland was the first state to use its lottery system to reward citizens for getting vaccinated against COVID-19 – other states soon followed suit. An active social media presence and frequent use of licensed characters in their games helps the program create an identity in player’s minds, which leads to more sales.

As new games make their way to US lottery systems, look to Maryland for the future of the industry. Though the state’s administrative costs run high, and the lottery game library changes a little too frequently, Maryland’s lottery is a model for other states looking to expand legal betting options for their citizens.