State News

Nondescript store tops state in lottery sales

Posted October 9

Credit: Facebook

— Stubby No. 2 pencil in hand, Georgina Clayton peered down the morning of Sept. 27 at a small sheet of paper covered by numbers and corresponding bubbles. She appeared to be deep in thought.

But she wasn't taking the SAT or about to cast a vote.

She was standing at a kiosk in Carlton's Tanglewood, a convenience store in Clemmons, thinking about whether to buy a lottery ticket, and if so, which numbers to pick.

"It's not all the time I buy a lottery ticket," she said, unintentionally channeling the Most Interesting Man in the World — punch Equis, Dos and beer commercial into your search engine. "But when I do, I start to dream."

In that, she's certainly not alone. And Clayton was definitely in the right place. Carlton's, as of last month, is the top retail outlet in the entire state for lottery sales.

"I'm not surprised," she said. "I come in every week, and there are always people in line buying tickets."

Lot of dough for a long shot

From the street, Carlton's appears to be your average quick in, quick out convenience store.

It has a couple aisles filled mostly with candy, gum and chips which are partially ringed by coolers filled with soda, water and a wide selection of cold beer.

With the popular Tanglewood Park golf course just around the corner, that shouldn't come as a surprise. There are loads of thirsty foursomes driving carts on the links all summer.

But selling beer and chips to thirsty golfers isn't where Carlton's bread is buttered.

That comes at the front of the store, where 72 different types of scratch-off lottery tickets are sold from rolls stacked four high across a good 10-feet.

"It's probably 90 percent of the business," said Christine Craft, Carlton's manager.

It hasn't always been that way, she said. "The business has really grown tremendously over the past five years."

Since the N.C. Education Lottery came online in 2006 — the legislature approved it in 2005 by the thinnest of margins, one measly vote — Carlton's ranks fourth in total sales as just a tick more than $14 million and fourth in sales commission at $981,105. Not bad for tickets that start at $1 and top out at $20 for a high-end scratch-off.

"It's always busy," Craft said. "We have a good location. It's really crazy when the jackpot is high."

Indeed, when Powerball jackpots blow past $400 or $500 million, interest from the occasional players peaks and the lines can back out past the Snickers and Juicy Fruit.

"They come from out of state to buy here," Craft said. Considering Clemmons' location in the middle of the state, that doesn't make much sense. "They look online to see what the top stores are."

In terms of volume, Carlton's, over the first ten years of the lottery's existence, is surpassed only by Rose Mart #14 in Wilson, an Amoco in Fayetteville and the C Mini Mart in Raleigh.

By the numbers, the N.C. Lottery has sold more than $15.8 billion worth of tickets. That translates to $4.6 billion for the state's schools — 27 percent of the earnings. By law, 62 percent of proceeds go to prize money, 7 percent to retail commissions and 4 percent for administrative expenses.

Put another way, every single day the state lottery averages $6.5 million in ticket sales, $4.1 million in prizes and $1.7 million for education.

That's a lot of dough chasing the longest of long shots.

'Good location'

For convenience stores, the lottery has undoubtedly been a major boon.

Carlton's, at its Tanglewood location, sells no gas. It has no deli counter, and has a major competitor for golfer beer dollars just across the street at Harris Teeter.

Its niche lies in those rows of scratch-off tickets and with sales of the large, multi-state lottery tickets. Carlton's has always been near the top in terms of sales, but in the most recent fiscal quarter, the store came out at the top outlet. (Three of the top five are in Fayetteville and the other is in Knightdale.)

"I'm not surprised," said Ken Tedder, 65, as he used an official lottery coin to scratch the shavings off a ticket.

Carlton's sits at a busy intersection. But it's in Clemmons, within a par five of some very nice neighborhoods. Not exactly the sort of place opponents of the lottery had in mind when they decried the games as inordinately picking the pockets of poor people.

"I don't know about all that," Tedder said with a shrug. "This is a good location."

Location, as any good realtor will tell you, pays.

That's what brought Clayton in, too. It's convenient. She said she buys a ticket maybe once a week, and spends no more than $5 a visit. "Those $20 (scratch-off) tickets . wow," she said. "Too much for me."

She keeps coming for one simple reason: the daydream that comes with dropping $2 for a ticket on a big jackpot.

"It's like that song from 'South Pacific,'" she said, referring to a famous musical. "You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream, how are you gonna have a dream come true?"


Information from: Winston-Salem Journal


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  • Tim Orr Oct 9, 3:42 p.m.
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    The article clearly says that the lottery gave $6.5 Billion to education. The budget was $8.79 Billion. I keep hearing the same old complaints about the school system that were there decades before the lottery. Yet 74% of it comes from a source that is just 11 years old. Something isn't adding up. I don't think we've had a 74% increase in enrollment in the last 11 years.

  • Brenda Lawrence Oct 9, 2:39 p.m.
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    No longer nondescript!

  • Rod Runner Oct 9, 2:02 p.m.
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    $15 a week, omg, they're going to go broke. Especially considering all the business that having the lottery brings in, plus the commissions.

  • Rod Runner Oct 9, 2:00 p.m.
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    Admin expenses would include advertising, since that isn't called out as a separate percentage.

    There is a lot of advertising involved. And the cost is paid for by the lottery itself, as it says.

    That's pretty good overhead. Most retail businesses and restaurants claim a lot more overhead than that.

  • Thomas White Oct 9, 12:21 p.m.
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    I would bet a lot of the administrative costs are for bonuses for meeting sales goals. The problem with that is lottery officials are already over paid. The lottery officials for the State of NC aren't designing games or anything that justifies large bonuses, but buying games that vendors market. Look at how many states had the same game with Ric Flair as the spokesperson - that shows that state lottery officials are not the ones coming up with the games.

  • William Hayes Oct 9, 11:42 a.m.
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    The poor are getting poorer

  • Bill Huntington Oct 9, 11:36 a.m.
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    I would argue that the lottery makes overall areas poorer. As poorer areas tend to sell the most tickets, that money goes into overall sales and is likely invested into larger metro areas, usually education, but at times roadwork or construction. This is money that could/should go to small local businesses in an already economically depressed area. The lottery sells itself to businesses as a "lure" for customers, that if they win they will "reinvest" part of their winnings back into the system of the lottery and part into patronizing the store. Well ask any clerk where they spend. All goes into the lottery and they very seldom are left with anything to spend in the business.

  • Michael Chappell Oct 9, 11:22 a.m.
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    The lottery also charges the retailer $15 a week just for having the lottery!!

  • Bill Huntington Oct 9, 11:15 a.m.
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    "But she wasn't taking the SAT or about to cast a vote."
    I would like to know if she's ever done either.
    But on another note: Topping state sales in lottery is not something to be proud of.

  • Andrew Stephenson Oct 9, 9:42 a.m.
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    What exactly is included in admin costs? Could it be literally just payroll, or does it also include things like all the POS's that have been installed in every location that sells lottery tickets.