To date, around 2,500 merchants representing as many as 2,900 Tennessee retail outlets have expressed an interest in selling lottery tickets next year, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. said Tuesday.
The goal is 3,500 retail locations.
Will Pinkston, speaking on behalf of the state lottery corporation, said advertisements have been placed in every newspaper in the state, inviting interested retailers to be on the mailing list for applications to sell tickets.
"Right now there's a very strong statewide response," Pinkston said.
He said selling lottery tickets would likely bring retailers increased foot traffic. Plus, merchants selling lottery tickets will get a 6.5 percent commission on ticket sales.
The "lion's share" of interest, he said, has come from convenience stores and gasoline stations. However, the lottery corporation has also reached out to and seen "some level of interest" from chains such as Kroger, Food City and Kmart.
Some fraternal organizations and restaurants are even considering selling lottery tickets, he said.
Tommy Hunt, president of Calloway Oil in Maryville, said he has requested more information on selling lottery tickets at his company's E-Z Stop Food Markets.
"We're afraid not to," he said, but added that several factors -- such as the availability of physical space and the impact on customer service -- will need to be studied.
Clara McNutt, president of McNutt Oil Co., said lottery tickets would be sold in all of her company's stores.
McNutt Oil Co. owns and operates seven Texaco stations in Blount County.
"It's not anything we really pushed for," she said. But with all the competition looking at selling the tickets, it was something McNutt Oil felt almost "forced" into.
Pinkston said bringing lottery tickets from theory to reality involves three steps.
The first step, which is under way now, involves finding out who is interested in selling tickets.
The next step, which should begin within a couple of weeks, is sending out the applications and performing background checks on interested retailers.
In particular, the lottery corporation will look to see if any of the store owners have been convicted for gambling-related crimes.
Also, checks will be made with the Tennessee Department of Revenue to make sure potential lottery merchants are up-to-date on their state taxes.
Applicants will have to pay $90, part of which is an application fee with the remainder going into a fidelity fund, acting as insurance to cover lost or stolen lottery equipment.
The final step will be accepting the completed applications and deciding who will sell the tickets.
"Probably by November we'll have a much better sense of the actual network and who the actual retailers will be," Pinkston said.