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Many states give payouts to store owners who sell winning lottery tickets, sometimes changing the lives of retailers as well as winners.

How does selling winning lottery tickets impact retailers?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Everyone dreams of picking the right lottery numbers and winning an amount of money that changes their lives forever. However, the lives of the winner are not the only ones that are changed. Many states give payouts to store owners who sell winning tickets, sometimes leaving a big impact on the retailers.

The lottery industry in the United States is huge, with Americans spending $105.26 billion on lottery in 2021. About half of all those lottery tickets sold are sold at convenience stores. Though lottery tickets amount to only 9% of a c-store’s annual revenue, research shows that 95% of lottery customers buy at least one additional item in the store. These items, such as bakery items and coffee, typically have higher gross profit margins. Lottery customers also tend to spend more than non-lottery customers, with an average basket price of $10.35 for those purchasing tickets and $6.29 not.

Depending on state laws, selling a winning lottery ticket can mean a big payout for the retailer who sold the ticket. For example, a California store owner named Joe Chahayed who sold the sole winning Powerball ticket in November 2022 received a check for $1 million. Chahayed, an immigrant from Syria, told CNN he hoped the winner of the ticket was someone from their community and that he was thankful some of the money would go towards local schools.

Stories like that happen all over the country, with store owners getting big payouts. However, laws vary from state to state, and some states are more lucrative than others. For example, the Pennsylvania Lottery maxes out bonuses for tickets at $100,000 for selling a ticket worth $10,000,001 or more. The bonus money is paid out from the state lottery and is not deducted from the winner’s earnings.

Boston-based photojournalist Edie Bresler sought to investigate the effect of retailer payouts from the lottery with her series “We Sold a Winner.” For years, Bressler visited small c-stores along the east coast following the sale of a winning ticket, capturing both the store owners and their communities. Bressler also interviews store owners about what they’ve done with the payouts that come with selling a winning ticket.

The stories vary, especially as some states give varying bonuses. The owner of Neighborhood Market in Sommerville, MA put a down payment on a home for his family with a $10,000 payout from the Massachusetts Lottery for selling a $1,000,000 ticket. One store in Illinois received $500,000, the maximum bonus in the state, and gave 10% of the earnings to store employees. A manager at that store was able to purchase a bassoon for her husband, a dream they had long been waiting to realize.