After years of trekking to Louisiana or Tennessee to try their luck at a jackpot, the days of crossing state lines in search of lottery winnings are over for Mississippians, and store owners say the first week of lottery sales brought an uptick in business.
The Mississippi lottery opened up earlier this week and local retailers are already raving about the rollout and reception of scratch-off tickets. Ticket sales for big-money jackpots such as the multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions are expected to begin in January, state lottery officials said.
Benjamin Van Cleave of Buffalo Services said the lottery is attracting business into his B-Kwik stores.
“It was a very busy first morning,” Van Cleave said. “We saw increased foot traffic, which is helping out in other categories as well.”
He said he’s noticed the largest volume of tickets tend to sell in his Hattiesburg and Columbia markets. He speculates that’s because those locations are further from Louisiana than McComb or Natchez.
“Columbia did really well,” he said. “We’re seeing more volume the further away you get from Louisiana.”
He said his stores have sold a few $200 and $300 winning tickets but he hasn’t heard of any big winners yet. He said lottery vendors can only pay out up to $599.99. If the winnings are any larger, the ticket holder must redeem their winnings at the lottery office in Flowood either in person or through correspondence.
The state lottery corporation reported first-day sales in excess of $2.5 million Monday at 1,200 retail locations statewide.
At a packed B-Kwik store near the Veterans Boulevard exit of Interstate 55, cashier Freda Morgan said she hasn’t seen huge winners yet but that foot traffic has picked up.
“I sold a $100 ticket yesterday,” she said. “They’ve been coming in all day.”
Brumfield Oil Co. CEO Pat Brumfield said the lottery has been beneficial to his chain of Marathon convenience stores.
“It’s been going very well,” he said. “We’ve already had some winners.”
Brumfield said his employees reported increased foot traffic, which they attributed to ticket sales.
Employees at retailers around town seem to agree.
A cashier at the Market Max near Interstate 55 on Presley Boulevard said a lot of customers have been tickets. Most of the winners have been for $40 and $50 “and a whole bunch of $2 winners.”
Another employee said one man asked to purchase an entire roll of $5 scratch off tickets.
A cashier at the Blue Sky convenience store on Delaware Avenue said there hasn’t been a noticeable increase in foot traffic.
“I’m surprised,” said the cashier, who asked not to be identified. “Because for $1 you could win $20. I might try it.”