A Highland Park porn shop won fame earlier this month for indulging a common vice.
Not that vice!
The Uptown Bookstore on Woodward sold a winning Powerball ticket worth $128.6 million.
In all, Michigan residents bought $2.37 billion in lottery tickets in the last budget year — about $4,500 a minute. That's down from the record year of 2009 ($2.38 billion), but it still averages nearly $237 for every man, woman and child in Michigan.
In Detroit, the state's biggest city, more than $326 million in lottery tickets were purchased, easily the most of any city. Hersey, just north of Big Rapids, ranked last at $109. But Hersey has only 356 residents and one lottery retailer — the Hersey Gas and Grocery on Main Street.
The only place in Hell (southwest of Brighton) to play the lottery is the Dam Site Inn. (We're not making this up.) It sold almost $140,000 in tickets last year, more than three times the $40,000 sold at the only lottery seller in Paradise (on the shores of Lake Superior's Whitefish Bay).
It's all for a good cause. The lottery generated about $701 million for the state's public schools last year and has contributed more than $15 billion to education since it began in 1972.
Michiganders spend $237 on lottery tickets yearly
Michigan plays the lottery. A lot.
The average resident spends $237 a year on the hopes of riches — large and small.
Now Michigan isn't as compulsive as say, Delaware, where gamblers spent about $816 per person last year. But then Delaware has video lottery to keep residents from staring at the ocean all day.
Michiganders typically buy tickets in gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants and bars.
But as one lucky winner found out earlier this month, winning the big prize means everyone knows where you bought the ticket.
The Powerball ticket worth $128.6 million was purchased at the Uptown Bookstore on Woodward in Highland Park. We could leave it at that but we won't. Uptown is an adult novelty store that rents pornographic videos.
The Uptown isn't the only risqué retailer of lottery tickets. Eleven strip clubs sold a combined $1.1 million in lottery tickets. Trumpps on 8 Mile led the way with $350,000 in tickets, almost $1,000 a day.
"Businesses can sign up to be retailers, but there are requirements for them to meet," said lottery spokeswoman Andi Brancato. "They have to sell non-lottery items. They can't just be in the business to sell lottery tickets."
Retailers earn 6% of gross sales and additional commissions for selling big winners. Places that sell big winners, like Uptown, receive $50,000.
Sellers are expected to move at least $1,000 a week in tickets, though seasonal businesses, like golf courses and ski lodges, get a break when they are closed.
Lottery officials screen applicants for "honesty and integrity" and "indebtedness to the state or any local government." A business owner can lose a lottery license over a criminal conviction or for being arrested for bookmaking.
Fraternal organizations and social clubs, like the Eagles, Elks and Knights of Columbus, sold more than $11 million in tickets. Veterans groups, like VFW and American Legion halls, sold an additional $4.4 million.
State lottery records categorize one retailer as religious — the Polish Roman Catholic Union in Muskegon. It sold $263,000 in tickets.
"I usually hit the four-digit at least once a year," said Bernice Burt, 35, of Detroit. "The year's almost up and I haven't hit, so I'm hoping."
The four-digit pays $5,000. She typically plays every day either the Daily 3, Daily 4 or Classic Lotto.
Burt buys tickets at Oak Liquor & Wine on 8 Mile in Oak Park, the highest-grossing lottery retailer in Michigan, according to preliminary figures for the 2010 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
The store sold about $1.9 million in lottery tickets last fiscal year. Manager Wassim Shaina credits a good location, a clean store and good customer service.
"We don't rush the customer," he said. "I've been in stores where they do."
The lottery sales are good for business. Many people just stop to play, but Shaina estimates that 40% or more of them also buy something else in the store. He noticed the difference when the state added daily drawings on Sunday.
"Business picked up," he said.
The store has never sold a mega jackpot, like the ones collected last week, but it's not uncommon for players to win $5,000 or $10,000, Shaina said.
The Wesko #31 in Muskegon led the state in instant ticket sales, selling almost $582,000. It doesn't have any huge signs or elaborate promotions, but it does quickly put out new games to attract the customers.
"If there's a secret, it's just good retail execution," said Dan Yerkie, director of merchandise for Wesko, the company that owns the gas station and convenience store. "Getting the games out there right away. The lottery will tell you that 39% of new instant sales occur in the first week of a game."
Most of the money that goes into the lottery gets paid out in prizes. According to preliminary numbers for the most recent fiscal year, about 58% went to prizes, 29% went to the state school aid fund, 7% went to retailers and the rest was spent on administrative, advertising and other expenses, including 0.1% to the compulsive gaming hot line, Brancato said.
So where's the best place to buy a ticket?
Many people consider the Party World store in Comstock Park, just outside Grand Rapids, to be the sweet spot. In one six-month period in 2008, three customers became millionaires.
The store sold two, $1-million winning Millionaire Raffle tickets and a Mega Millions ticket worth $57 million. It's also sold numerous $100,000 winners in recent years.
Dave Castor, a manager at the family-owned business, attributes the luck to a four-leaf clover taped to the lottery terminal. Owner Dan Bekins found it about 20 years ago when he was cleaning up in the grass near the store.
"He said it's been his lucky charm ever since," said Castor, Bekins' brother-in-law. "We have customers come who insist on tapping their tickets on it."
Thanks to Marianne for the tip.