About 84 million people pass through the Atlanta airport each year, and another 55,000 work there. But if they want to buy Georgia lottery tickets, they're out of luck.
Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Lottery Corp. hope to change that by opening a lottery kiosk in the main terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Other airport locations could follow.
Lottery officials are in talks with airport General Manager Ben DeCosta, who said he's open to the idea.
"If we can make sure it works for everyone, then sure," DeCosta said. "It does have entertainment value for people."
The governor believes it could "certainly bring millions of dollars into the state for much-needed HOPE scholarships," said Perdue's spokesman, Dan McLagan. "It's an exciting possibility from our point of view."
Financial and other details still have to be worked out. The city-owned airport likely would get a percentage of sales, just as stores do, McLagan said. Typically that's about 7 percent.
Hartsfield-Jackson tried lottery ticket sales at a newsstand and a gift shop several years ago. "It really flopped with the retailers because it was mainly airport employees who were buying the tickets," DeCosta said. The employees typically bought only lottery tickets, taking the place of travelers who would buy more and more profitable items such as bottled water, magazines and candy, he said.
The new plan is for a lottery-only booth in a high-traffic area of the airport's atrium, staffed by lottery employees. The proposed location might have to be shut down during especially busy periods because of long security lines, DeCosta said.
Judging from sales at other large airports, the Georgia Lottery could expect to sell more than $2 million worth of lottery tickets a year at Hartsfield- Jackson.
Miami's airport has one lottery kiosk in its main terminal, with annual sales of $3 million.
Chicago's O'Hare the second-busiest U.S. airport after Atlanta's had $2.4 million in lottery sales from four kiosks last year. That makes it one of the top 100 retailers for the Illinois Lottery.
In exchange, O'Hare gets $1 a year in rent and state troopers patrolling the roads in and out of the airport, said Annette Martinez, spokeswoman for O'Hare.
The Georgia Lottery is one of the nation's most successful lotteries, earning $2.71 billion in the 12 months ending June 30, 2004. From that, it contributed $782 million to education programs.
But sales dropped $4.1 million during the first half of the current budget year, and lawmakers adopted a series of cost-cutting steps that could kick in if the trend continues.
The lottery funds HOPE college scholarships for students with a B average and pre-kindergarten for 4-year- olds.