Stuttgart's G&B Liquor Store Is No. 1 in Lottery Sales

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Sep. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

Le understands why: The new has worn off.

“The lottery has been slower than two years ago,” he said. “Some people wanted to support the scholarship, but they didn’t win anything, so they’re buying less. But we’re still able to do all right.”

(Also see: 10 Things You Should Know About Gambling in Arkansas (But May Not))

Not all lottery retailers have had such a positive, or profitable, experience. The lottery currently has almost 1,900 active retail locations and new ones are being added regularly — 68 new ones in fiscal 2013. But in the same period, about 160 retailers dropped out, according to data provided by the lottery’s chief legal counsel, Jean Block.

“I can tell you exactly why we quit,” said Charlie Verhegghe, owner of C&K Family Market & Garage in St. Joe in Searcy County. “We moved about $20,000 worth of tickets, and by the time we paid our bonding, we made about $400, so it just wasn’t feasible.”

Verhegghe bought the store in 2011 and despite personal misgivings about the lottery, he decided to add lottery tickets to the merchandise mix just to help generate revenue for his new business. The few bucks he cleared definitely weren’t worth listening to the complaints of customers who had moral objections to gambling — objections that Verhegghe said he actually shared.

“It wasn’t worth it to us. We’re closed on Sunday, and we go to church on Sunday, and I’ve got a problem with gambling,” he said. So after his one-year agreement with the lottery expired last August, he didn’t re-up.

G&B Liquor Store is also closed on Sunday, and Paul Le said he too heard complaints about the lottery from his customers. But their complaints were very different from those Verhegghe heard at C&K Family Market in St. Joe.

Le said his customers don’t like recent changes in the Play It Again game. And, he said, they didn’t like reading in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that $750,000 in unclaimed prizes were being transferred to the scholarship fund.

Le said he and his customers would rather see most of the unclaimed money put back in the pot for ticket-buyers to win. But when customers complain, Le has an answer.

“I calm them down. I tell them that when they come to G&B, they cannot lose. Because the money that they don’t win will help a kid out. So I calm them down, and most of them are really, really, really nice.”

(Correction, Sept. 9, 2013: The original version of this article incorrectly characterized G&B Liquor Store's revenue from liquor, which is actually lower than from lottery ticket sales.)



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