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Lottery sales strong after 15 years
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Jennifer Hogencamp says sales of lottery tickets are steady at McMinnville Liquor & Wine on N. Chancery Street. There have been 259 tickets sold worth more than $1 million in the Tennessee Lottery’s 15 years of existence. - photo by James Clark

Fifteen years later, Tennesseans still have lotto fever.

As the Tennessee Education Lottery marks its 15th anniversary of ticket sales this week, officials announced the lottery has raised $4.85 billion for all education programs funded by lottery dollars.

Residents are certainly playing the lottery in Warren County as state records indicate there are 25 authorized lottery retailers here.

“We sell a lot of lottery tickets here, every day, every week,” said Super Rama employee Sonya Goudeau. “Whether it’s the scratch off or the Powerball, we really do well.”

Sales of lottery tickets have reached an all-time high with officials saying the lottery returned a record $122.9 million to education this past quarter.

At Tree City Wine & Spirits on Sparta Street, owner Keval Sheth says he just recently began lottery ticket sales due to the high number of requests.

“Our lottery sales continue to grow month over month, largely in part due to record-breaking jackpots for Powerball and the Mega Million,” said Sheth. “As a retailer, I decided to bring the lottery to my establishment for two reasons – customer demand and the HOPE Scholarship. I was a recipient of the HOPE Scholarship and think it’s a great way for our youth to get a higher education.”

More than 1.3 million scholarships and grants have been awarded since the lottery’s inception, which is more than 86,600 per year.

While some may play the lottery to support education, the chance to win the jackpot and strike it rich is motivation for most.

“We’ve had a few $500 winners in our six months, but no major jackpots … yet!” said Sheth.

At Super Rama, Goudeau said, “It’s been a while since we’ve had a big, big winner. When they win a lot, they have to go to Nashville to pick up their check.”

Lottery officials say more than $13.2 billion in prizes have been won by players, with 259 tickets sold worth $1 million or more.

In addition, more than $1.2 billion has been paid to retailers in commission.

Since the first awards were given in the fall of 2004, lottery-funded programs have grown to include not only HOPE Scholarships, Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, but multiple scholarships and grants, after-school programs, and an energy-efficient schools program as well.