WHITE HILLS, Ariz. — For those heading toward Nevada on this lonely stretch of U.S. Highway 93, Rosie's at the Boulder Inn Cafe is the last chance to gamble in Arizona.
For those in Las Vegas, meanwhile, this 77-year-old former truck stop is the closest place to play the Arizona Lottery.
When the Powerball jackpot spikes, people flood to Rosie's over Hoover Dam, 35 miles to the north, said general manager Brad Larsen, whose mother is the cafe's namesake.
"It doesn't even get busy until $100 million," he said. "$200 million it's double-row parking; $300 million the news crews are in here."
According to figures for fiscal 2009, the two highest-grossing Arizona Lottery outlets were isolated businesses close to Nevada, which has no lottery.
Rosie's, operated by Larsen and his wife, Sheila, sold $1,416,908 worth of Arizona Lottery products in that year, almost all for Powerball, The Pick and other games based on drawings.
But that's a distant second to Beaver Dam Station, situated along Interstate 15 in the Arizona Strip community of Littlefield.
Bill Evans' convenience store, which sold $2,185,304 worth of lottery products in fiscal 2009, is a seven-plus-hour drive from Phoenix but convenient to Mesquite, Nev., and to communities in Utah, which has no Powerball.
"We're the only game in town," Evans said in a telephone interview.
Maricopa County outlets make up the rest of the top 10.
Rosie's beckons with a lot full of photo opportunities, including a Marilyn Monroe cutout and giant toy train, as well a smoking patio, a bar touting ice cold beer and a peeling, hand-painted sign offering breakfast anytime. But it's lottery tickets, especially Powerball, that have Ed Gallo driving here from Las Vegas every couple of weeks.
It's safer to play games of chance here than in his neighborhood, Gallo said.
"You can't live there and gamble," he said. "You won't live there long."
Brad Larsen said most of his lottery business comes from Nevadans such as Gallo.
"For the last 15 years, everyone knows to come to Rosie's for Powerball tickets," he said.
Recent years have been tough on Rosie's, though, as sales plunged 60 percent after truckers were forbidden to pass over Hoover Dam and were routed through Laughlin, Nev., and Bullhead City, Ariz., to the south.
That makes sales to Las Vegas-area residents essential, at least until a Hoover Dam bypass on U.S. 93 opens later this year, Larsen said.
"People come down for the hopes of winning millions," he said.
The next four highest-grossing Arizona Lottery outlets are a 200-plus-mile drive southeast on U.S. 93 and U.S. 60 in and around Sun City. About half of lottery sales in the retiree-rich area were Scratchers games in fiscal 2009, according to Arizona Lottery data.
At the Fry's Food Store at 10660 NW Grand Ave., which ranked third with $532,796 in lottery sales, people like getting tickets at Arizona Lottery machines offering Scratchers after buying their groceries, said Joellen Lynn, Fry's community and public affairs director.
"People will purchase something on their way out," Lynn said in a telephone interview.
(Click to display full-size in gallery)