DECATUR – Diane Little, owner of Party Warehouse in Brettwood Village, said it was in 2011 that they had decided to start selling lottery tickets. The bet was paid off and 91,627 tickets were bought there in 2018, but some customers are still surprised to learn that it is possible to buy a Mega Millions or scratch it alongside balloons Mylar, Mardi Gras beads and St. Patrick's Day decorations.
"I will say:" Absolutely, " she says. "… Our lottery customers make it so much fun."
Local store owners, like Little Say, have a good relationship with customers as the common denominator of customer loyalty. Even in the face of competition from online gaming shows and video games, the demand for scratches and selected leaflets remains strong.
Party Warehouse alone made gross ticket sales of $ 316,644 in 2018, ranking it 33rd among companies selling tickets to Decatur, according to data obtained by the Herald & Review of the state lottery.
Number 1 was the County Market Express petrol station on East Pershing Road, which is still open despite the fact that the County Market store opened in August. The service station sold 562,372 tickets and totaled $ 975,233 in gross sales.
In total, Decatur's 69 lottery sellers achieved a gross business figure of $ 21.9 million last year, according to the data.
Lola Love goes almost daily to Prairie Pantry, West Grand Avenue, to play the lottery. She said she won several times.
"I took up the habit years ago," said Love, 69. "And I always play my favorite numbers.
Love said that she was not playing there simply because it was convenient, but also because "they give the customer the feeling of being important".
Retailers receive a share of the action
The Illinois Lottery began in July 1974. The funds go to schools, capital projects and other causes. Retailers who sell winning tickets are also receiving payments – about $ 161 million in fiscal 2016. The network has about 8,000 retailers, including 73 in Decatur.
One of them is the Circle K on West First Drive, where Barb McLeod stops. The store ranks as the sixth largest retailer in the city, generating a turnover of $ 637,169.
McLeod, 46, said she was not playing at the store every day, but that she was close to her way back to Moweaqua. She could buy a soda or a snack and buy a scratch ticket on her way to or from her home.
She even won a few times. "I'm paying for it," says McLeod.
The October sales record includes revenue generated by instant scratch tickets and standard lottery games based on draws. The rush to win the Mega Millions jackpot also had a big impact, the department said.
"With 25 cents on every dollar spent on the lottery going directly to the state, October sales generated about $ 86.3 million for good causes in Illinois, mainly for the funding for education, "said Harold Mays, acting director of the Illinois Lottery, in a statement. .
Colin Hadden, general manager of Camelot Illinois, private director of Illinois Lottery, said in a statement that the department would not have been able to achieve this goal without its "enthusiastic players and diligent retailers".
It is unclear what impact on the lottery sales a proposed legalization of sports betting by Governor J. B. Pritzker would have. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states are already offering it.
A progressive tax plan would raise taxes for those earning more than $ 250,000 a year, while reducing taxes by 97% of those who earn more than $ 250,000 a year.
Last year, lottery-related lotteries, like the $ 1.5 billion jackpot, claimed by an anonymous resident of South Carolina in March, five months after the announcement of winning numbers in April.
Nilesh Patel, owner of Prairie Pantry, located at 1645 W. Grand Avenue, stated that the lottery sales of his store had always been high because of the close relationships he and his associates had forged. After generating sales of $ 975,233 last year, the convenience store is the second largest seller after the County Market Express station.
"We know the customers personally," said Patel, adding that he and his associates know so many of their customers that they remember lottery numbers that they like to play from memory. "We are doing an excellent service."
New machines, new demand
Establishing a positive and familiar relationship with customers is a common thread between local store owners and their strong lottery sales.
"My employees treat customers well and, when they serve them, they feel they are respected," said Amar Lotey, owner of the Marathon gas station located at 101 E. Pershing. Road. This station was the third largest seller in 2018.
"When (the customers) go elsewhere and do not understand this feeling, they will say" Hey, let's get back here, "he said." The owner is a good person, the employees are good people. Why not?"
The Lotey station has recently received an upgrade in the form of new lottery ticket machines. The new machine can hold a little more scratch tickets than the previous one, he adds, and also gives customers the ability to grab their own lottery numbers by hitting them with the help of the same. ;a keyboard.
Lotey expects the new machine to have a positive impact on its convenience store in the coming years.
"Here, instead of (picking numbers) on a slip, you can do it here and move on," said Lotey, standing in front of the big blue machine. "It's like an artificial intelligence, let's say I want to reduce my cashier time." I would say, "Hey, go over there (and play your own numbers."
According to Little, Party Warehouse has gained tremendous popularity in the years since he became a lottery ticket salesman. Some have so loved buying their tickets at the store, she said, that they travel from home to areas like South Shores to get them there rather than anywhere else.
That kind of dedication, said Little, and the good times spent in the fun conversations that accompany his regular customers make being a ticket seller worth it.
"We love it," she says. "It's so much fun."
Donnette Beckett of The Herald & Review contributed to this story.
Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR