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Lottery participants celebrate opening of S.C. claims center

Apr 21, 2006, 8:27 am

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South Carolina Lottery

They showed up for the cake, juice and prizes. But most of all, they came out of convenience.

About 20 people celebrated the grand opening of the South Carolina Education Lottery claims center in Fort Mill on Wednesday morning. The new claims center, located at 377 Carowinds Blvd., will make it easier for local lottery players to cash in their winnings. Before, winners had to travel to Columbia, Greenville or Charleston to claim their prizes.

Wandra Hoffman, 41, of Charlotte said she was excited about having a claims center close by.

"Now we don't have to travel all the way to Columbia to cash out," Hoffman said at the center's opening. "We can stay close to home."

Tara Robertson, a lottery spokeswoman, said opening a center in Fort Mill "just made sense" geographically.

"We've been planning to open this claims center for between three-and-a-half to four years," Robertson said.

The center was opened as a response to the requests of local lottery players, said Ernie Passailaigue, the lottery's executive director.

He said he expects the center to attract hundreds of thousands of users.

York County is home to eight of the state's top 10 lottery retailers, with several of those located in the Fort Mill area. But lottery experts have said they expect that to change when North Carolina joins Powerball in May. The Tar Heel State launched its own lottery last month.

Passailaigue also announced that the S.C. lottery has "upped the ante" by increasing the amount of money that can be cashed at claims centers in Greenville, Charleston and Fort Mill from $75,000 to $200,000.

Prizes greater than $200,000 must be claimed in Columbia.

Passailaigue said the lottery had generated $8.4 million to York County's schools in the past fiscal year. The lottery averages more than $3 million in ticket sales per day.

The Fort Mill Claims Center is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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