Barbershops, restaurants, even the theater may get into ticket selling
Tennesseans eating out, getting a haircut or maybe even buying Broadway tickets at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center will be able to pick up lottery tickets, too.
The state lottery yesterday mailed applications to 3,600 retailers that include not only traditional outlets such as gas stations and grocery stores, but also quirky ones such as barbershops, restaurants and even TPAC.
"I'm trying to figure out another way to produce income," said Jeff Brandon, who owns two downtown eateries.
Business at his restaurants Brandon's and the Sports Page has slowed with several law and brokerage firms leaving downtown and with the temporary loss of the "courthouse crowd" moving to MetroCenter while the courthouse is being renovated, Brandon said.
The lottery will pay retailers a 6.5% commission on gross sales in their stores.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum made a casual inquiry about selling tickets, executive director Kyle Young said. He said he doesn't know enough about the process yet to say whether he will pursue it.
Steven Greil, TPAC's president and chief executive officer, said board members appear supportive of the idea that could help defray costs of operating a box office.
"Early signs indicate there's no reason not to consider it," Greil said. "It would support TPAC and allow TPAC the opportunity to support college education."
The nonprofit TPAC receives state grants and is located in a state-owned building.
Lottery spokesman Will Pinkston said entities that receive state funds aren't prohibited from selling lotto tickets.
"If they feel comfortable selling and want to sell tickets, we want them to sell," Pinkston said.
But Brandon, who is located near TPAC and could compete for customers, is bothered by it.
"That's the state selling state lottery tickets," he said. "My first thought was, why do they need vendors if departments of the state of Tennessee are selling tickets?"
Greil responded that TPAC isn't a state agency and generates its own operating funds. "The only difference between us and him is that we're not-for-profit," he said.
He added that he's anxious to receive an application so he can "read the fine print."
"We may not want to do it if we find out a requirement will be to put up a certain amount of lottery signage that could conflict with the aesthetics of the hall," he said.
There are restrictions on who can sell tickets.
Pawnshops and check-cashing and cash advance outlets are prohibited. Also, no business set up for the sole purpose of selling lotto tickets would be legal.
Retail owners must pass a criminal background check and credit check. Individual clerks will not be subject to the checks. Retailer owners cannot owe back taxes to Tennessee.
"If they clear all those hurdles, they can sell tickets," Pinkston said.
Lottery officials are unsure how quickly they will be able to notify retailers if they pass, but expect early applicants to be approved well before the expected Feb. 10 start date to sell scratch-off tickets.
A $95 application fee will be required. Lottery equipment, supplies and training will be provided at no cost if a retailer is approved.