Forsythians pick their lucky spots

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. – On a recent Monday afternoon, Richard Allen strolled into the Citgo at 141 Atlanta Highway in Cumming with several lotto playslips in hand, as he has for years.

He focused on a lottery ticket display case where games range from $1 to $20, all promising the same thing—an equal shot at fortune.

He asked for the $400,000 Grant game, with one in four odds, and scratched the fifteen chances with his keys.

“I spend 70 to 80 bucks a week on lotto,” Allen said. “And I usually break even, sometimes a little bit ahead.”

After scratching off the fifteenth dollar sign, Allen lifted the card with a sigh, not a winner today. But the week just started.

He has plenty more days left to win that $400,000 or $250 million, whichever Lady Luck will hand him.

In Forsyth County, this Citgo is the most popular place to play the lottery, according to the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

“A lot of people play here,” Allen said. “There’s been some big winners here.”

Arjun Rathore, assistant manager, said he sees a $500 winner every day he works.

Georgia Lottery sold its first ticket in July 1993. It was formed to help fund education. Since then, the lotto has pulled in about $39 billion and given $13.5 billion to educational programs such as tuition grants, pre-kindergarten programs and technological upgrades in schools.

In 2011, ticket sales reached nearly $3.6 billion with 25 percent handed to education, or about $850 million. Of the $3.6 billion, $2.1 million returned to players as cash prizes.

However, despite the popularity of lottery tickets, retailers say they don’t make much of a profit from the sales.

“Pretty much, there is no incentive for us to sell lottery tickets except for attracting customers,” Sam Jiwani said, manager at the A&L Quik Stop in Cumming. “The Georgia Lottery has cut back on us. We only make a 6 percent profit on each ticket sold.”

Lotto officials used to give 2 percent on cash-outs, but this has recently been stopped, he said.

Jiwani’s A&L Quik Stop, 115 Canton Highway, is the No. 4 lottery hotspot in Forsyth. “It’s right in downtown Cumming,” he said. “Also, we’ve had a couple of big winners, so people come in and try us out. They like it, and they keep coming back.”

Cumming resident Patricia Puckett and her husband keep playing here because they’ve won big once. In 2004, her husband won $500,000—$344,000 after taxes.

“We bought a house, a car and put some money in for retirement,” Puckett said. “My husband, he probably spends on average $15 a day on the lottery. He plays all the games. I play every once in a while.”

Since their stroke of luck, Puckett said they haven’t won a big amount again, but they keep coming back to strike it rich once more.

Billy Coffey is another faithful lottery player. Coffey works in framing out of North Fulton and south Forsyth. For nearly 15 years, he plays scratch-off games on a daily basis at the Priya Food Mart Texaco gas station, 5320 Atlanta Highway in Alpharetta, the No. 7 most popular place in Forsyth County.

Coffey won $5,000 once.

The money he does win gets put back into the lottery in hopes of hitting it bigger.

“When I win, I put it all in,” Coffey said.

He has also hit $1,500 and $1,000 a couple of times. But the return on his investment hasn’t been great, he said.

“I’m at least $70,000 in the hole,” Coffey said. “I’ve hit $500 several times, but it doesn’t come near what I play.”