North Carolina woke up scratching this morning as the state lottery began.
The first tickets in the N.C. Education Lottery, the country's newest government-backed game, began selling at 6 a.m. today.
There were winners, losers and a few technical glitches.
As lottery buyers mixed with regular early morning patrons, ticket sales appeared brisk at gas stations, groceries and tackle shops across Wilmington.
Charles Brinkley, of Wilmington, was ready with $52 at 5:30 a.m. at a Scotchman convenience store on North 23rd Street.
"I've been waiting for this since it was announced," said Brinkley, who said he was on disability and had traveled to South Carolina and Virginia in the past to buy lottery tickets.
His first was a winner -- $10. His second netted him a free $5 ticket.
Judy Johnson, manager of Kangaroo gas station on Gordon Road, said the lottery computer there — which is needed to verify winning tickets — wasn't working.
But, she said, that didn't stop clerks from selling tickets and paying winners.
State Board of Education chairman Howard Lee bought the ceremonial first tickets in Raleigh at dawn, making North Carolina the 42nd state with a lottery.
His purchase of five $1 scratch-off tickets began a planned day of celebration for supporters who have long championed the lottery as a way to raise money for education.
Tom Shaheen, executive director of the lottery, and state Board of Education member John Tate were greeted by more than a dozen staff members at Charlotte's lottery headquarters, where they cut a ribbon before buying the Queen City's first $5 ticket.
Shaheen, who took the job in December, says the months of hard work has paid off, but there is still plenty more to do.
"I think that everybody at the lottery deserves to take this weekend off," he said. "Come Monday, we're right back in it because we have Powerball starting up May 30 and we are right back in the startup mode."
The state is starting with four kinds of instant-win tickets available at more than 5,000 outlets. A variety of new scratch-off tickets will soon follow.
Officials expect the lottery to raise about $400 million in its first year for education, with the money targeted for class-size reduction, school construction and need-based college scholarships.