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State to roll out Sox scratch tickets

Team is 1st in MLB to sign with a lottery

Red Sox fans who play the state lottery now have a chance at the ultimate prize: season tickets for life.

That's the top giveaway of a Red Sox scratch-ticket game that the Massachusetts State Lottery unveiled yesterday. Players also can win Red Sox cruise packages and jerseys used in games, as well as more traditional prizes of up to $1 million.

Fans will be able to pay $5 for the Red Sox Instant Ticket beginning April 11, the date of the Sox's home opener. The Red Sox are the first team in Major League Baseball to unveil a lottery game, but several others -- including the New York Yankees and Mets -- have plans to follow suit.

The games are a result of a deal struck between Major League Baseball and a subsidiary of Scientific Games Corp. of New York to let team logos be used on instant tickets. In the next few years, dozens of teams are expected to unveil lottery games, executives said.

The National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and NASCAR already have similar agreements with Scientific Games and are featured in some state lottery games. Under the terms of the Sox's deal, the team will not get royalties from lottery ticket sales, but Scientific Games will pay the team an undisclosed lump sum for supplying the prizes. (The New York Times Co., owner of The Boston Globe, holds a 17 percent stake in the Red Sox.) The Sox also are planning to sell lottery tickets at Fenway Park this year.

''I'm expecting it to be a runaway success," state Treasurer Timothy Cahill said.

He said the state will print 40 million tickets to start, and that the game is expected to bring in more than $30 million for cities and towns.

The Red Sox's chief operating officer, Mike Dee, said the club likes the idea because it helps get tickets into the hands of fans who might not otherwise be able to purchase them.

''This provides a passionate, core fan base across Massachusetts the opportunity to capture rewards that are Red Sox-themed," he said. ''We're thrilled about that."

Though American professional sports teams historically have shunned all forms of gambling, there are signs they are becoming more accustomed to the idea, so long as it involves fans and not players, said Paul C. Weiler, a professor at Harvard Law School who has argued in favor of regulating, rather than criminalizing, sports gambling.

For example, Mohegan Sun is the ''official casino" of the Red Sox, and the state Lottery sponsored the tour that took the 2004 World Series trophy to all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.

Gambling ''actually enhances their appeal and thence the profits," he said. ''That is especially true on television and in football and basketball where one has a point spread to make it truly exciting to the end of the game."

Gambling on sporting events such as soccer matches, tennis tournaments, and even US professional sports is legal in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

Licensed games, such as the Red Sox scratch game, are a fast-growing part of the lottery market. Five years ago, they brought in $150 million. Now, they are worth about $2.5 billion, said Steven M. Saferin, president of Scientific Games Ventures. The games are a ''popular and powerful marketing tool for the lottery," he said.

In addition to the sports leagues, his company holds the licenses for ''American Idol," Donald Trump's television show ''The Apprentice," and Harley-Davidson.

''While they are typically positioned as niche games with discrete consumer segment appeal, the added excitement and bonus entertainment value built into the [licensed games] often makes them among the most successful sellers in a lottery's line-up, when compared to comparably priced generic games," the company's website states.

The Red Sox game's grand prize, season tickets for life, are located in Fenway Park's grandstand. ''And not behind a pole, either," said Sam Kennedy, the Sox's senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Other prizes include: 2007 season tickets, 10-game packages and a tour of Fenway, tickets for the Green Monster, trips to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., ''Red Sox prize packs" (which contain a team jersey, a team jacket, wind-shirt, etched-glass framed photograph, and fitted cap), and baseballs, bats, and bases used in games.

Cahill predicts the new Red Sox scratch game will be popular outside Massachusetts as well.

''I'm sure we'll have a lot of people from Connecticut and Rhode Island -- maybe even some New Yorkers -- coming to Massachusetts to buy tickets," he said.

Sasha Talcott can be reached at stalcott@globe.com.

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