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First day of Arkansas lottery sales brisk, sellers say

Sep 29, 2009, 7:49 am

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Arkansas Lottery

By midmorning Monday, Arkansas' new lottery had produced a $500 winner in Baxter County from a scratch-off ticket sold at Benny's Country Store, 6227 State Hwy. 5 N., and an unknown amount for college scholarships.

Several retailers who sell lottery tickets here reported brisk and sometimes "crazy" ticket sales Monday — the first day of the state's new lottery with proceeds dedicated for college scholarships.

Drew Long, owner of Benny's Country Store, said a customer purchased the $500-winning ticket about an hour after tickets went on sale at 9 a.m. Long said ticket sales totaled about $175 by 3 p.m. for the tickets in denominations of $1, $2 and $5.

Jeri Deardoff, manager of EZ Mart at 913 Ninth St., said the station sold tickets totaling $1,200 by 3 p.m. and paid out about $400 in winnings.

"It's crazy," Deardoff said. "Between 2 and 3 (p.m.) we sold $350 worth."

At Warehouse Liquor, 2471 U.S. Hwy. 62 E., the store had paid out $250 on ticket sales totaling $350 by 2:30 p.m. Store manager Joe Huerd said the business of selling the scratch-off tickets was going smoothly Monday and lottery players who had been taking their business to Missouri retailers were happy to stay home and play.

"I'm seeing a lot of new faces, and they're happy," said Huerd. "They don't have to run to the county line any more."

Huerd said the ratio of lottery players who scratch their tickets before leaving the store versus the ones who leave, scratch and return for their winnings is about equal.

"Let the people scratch," said Huerd. "It was time for the state to do this."

Cassandra Simmons, owner of Mid Town Liquor, 611 U.S. Hwy. 62 E., said the store had sold tickets totaling $500 by 2:30 p.m. and paid out about $150 in winnings. The store received some telephone calls leading up to the opening day for lottery ticket sales, she said. Customers who come in the store to purchase product and lottery tickets versus those who come to purchase lottery tickets alone are about equal.

Marilee Odegard, manager of Tobacco Outlet, 1300 U.S. Hwy. 62 East, had paid out about $100 in winnings by 2:20 p.m. Monday. She said ticket sales were steady Monday. She, too, had new customers in the store who had apparently taken tobacco-purchasing business to outlets in Missouri in order to participate in that state's lottery.

Roger Starks, manager of Y Grocery & Gas, 10842 State Hwy. 5, Salesville, said the store sold about $175 in tickets and paid out about $60 by 2 p.m. Monday.

"We have had an uncommonly smooth startup, with demand heavy enough that there have been a number of locations selling out of tickets by early afternoon," Julie Baldridge, a spokesman for the Arkansas Lottery Commission told The Bulletin at 4:30 p.m. on Monday. "Of course, these are being replenished quickly. We hope to top $1 million in gross sales by the end of the day, at minimum.

"There are 7.5 hours to go," she said.

Baldridge said instant-win scratch-off ticket sales as ticket packages are activated at retail locations. Each pack contains $300 in tickets. Some 8,500 packs had been activated statewide by 2 p.m., she said, and about $250,000 in winnings had been paid out.

The public may visit the Arkansas Lottery Web site — www.myarkansaslottery.com — to find a retailer participating in the lottery. The search is queued to city names or ZIP codes.

An online Arkansas Lottery Players Club gives players whose tickets didn't win a second chance to win by registering the ticket number online.

Baldridge said border counties like Baxter County are important to the state's lottery system.

"Profits from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery go directly to our college students," Baldridge said. "The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery is good for our students and good for Arkansas businesses, and the Arkansas prize structure is more advantageous to players."

The Associated Press reported a Rison woman on Monday redeemed a $1,000 winning ticket she purchased for $2 in Pine Bluff.

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