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The California State Lottery is learning to gamble with promotional partners.

Following two tie-ins with marketers for its scratch-and-win games, the Lottery Commission is preparing next month to link its bread-and-butter game, SuperLotto, with United Airlines.

Meanwhile, the lottery is upgrading the electronic terminals used to generate SuperLotto tickets, giving each outlet the ability to print coupons for discounts on goods and services.

SuperLotto, a twice-weekly, pick-six numbers game, holds out the promise of the biggest jackpots among all the lottery games. It will also rake in more than 40% of the lottery's estimated $1.9 billion in revenues for fiscal 1994, ending June 30.

But SuperLotto sales react dramatically to large jackpots, when the grand prize isn't claimed and rolls over several times.

"We're trying to make the sales follow more of a flat line than spiking," said Denise Kimes, marketing director of the commission. "We can do that with constant promotional activity."

SuperLotto has seen a 15-month drought for big jackpots, with no single prize breaking the $20 million mark. And sales reflect it. Estimated sales for fiscal 1994 of $790 million will represent a 13.5% drop from the previous year's sales of $913 million.

As the official airline of the lottery, United will supply 1,500 pairs of round-trip domestic tickets as SuperLotto prizes. Players who match three of the six numbers will have a chance to win the tickets.

In addition, United has anted up $450,000, to be matched by the lottery, for a statewide TV and radio effort from J. Walter Thompson USA, San Francisco. Understandably, United is featured prominently in the advertising.

Other state lotteries have found travel and tourism awards popular in their games. Indeed, United earlier collaborated with the Illinois State Lottery on a scratcher type game. The California commission, however, is looking to extend its partnerships beyond single promotions.

"Our strategy for next year is to build long-term relationships with several partners," Ms. Kimes said.

The lottery expects to test its coupon capabilities in a joint promotion with Southland Corp.'s 7-Eleven stores in southern California. Starting in August or September, each SuperLotto ticket customer will get a coupon for a free game at a local bowling alley. The promotion will test the computer system's ability to customize coupons regionally, by ZIP code, by neighborhood and even by store.

While the test coupon will have a relatively low redemption value, the lottery is interested in hooking up with "manufacturers of big goods," such as home builders who could give away a house, Ms. Kimes said.

The lottery's joint promotions to date have been single-shot deals. Earlier this year, the lottery signed up as a regional supporter of the World Cup USA '94 international soccer championship. As such, the lottery is currently in the middle of a World Cup promotion for one of its scratch-and-win games.

The World Cup scratchers offer free tickets to World Cup games at two California locations: Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

However, the lottery got its first real taste of a joint promotion last summer when it teamed with Wherehouse Entertainment, a regional chain of music and video stores. In that effort, scratcher players gambled for a chance to win free movie tapes and free rentals at Wherehouse stores, as well as cash.

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