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W.Va. market tops charts in lottery sales

July 07, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. - Glen Cunningham stood behind the counter at his State Line Market, ringing up a customer's lottery tickets Tuesday afternoon.

It's not the baseball caps with race car logos or the hot dogs spinning in the warmer that brings many of the customers to the small market in southern Berkeley County. It's the lure of the lottery.

West Virginia Lottery officials announced Monday that in a record-breaking year for lottery sales, State Line Market was the top retailer for agents that do not carry the Keno game.

The State Line Market sold $606,608 worth of lottery tickets from July 1, 1997, to June 30.

"It's an honor to be No. 1 in whatever you do," Cunningham said.

The amount placed him fifth among all lottery agents statewide.

State Line Market sold Keno tickets until about 1992, when the state decided that only lottery agents with liquor licenses could offer the game.

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Cunningham keeps a plaque from the West Virginia Lottery behind the two lottery machines. The plaque says he was the top retail agent for the lottery's first 10 years, from 1986 to 1996.

"I think it's totally because of location," Cunningham said.

Cunningham's convenience store, off U.S. 11 near Interstate 81, is fewer than 200 yards north of the Virginia border, and the first stop for many Virginians wanting to play the West Virginia lottery games.

"If you look at the top 100 agents, almost all of them are in border counties," Cunningham said.

Three of the other top-10 selling agents without Keno last year are also in the Eastern Panhandle: the 7-Eleven in Falling Waters, W.Va., was third, the Texaco in Marlowe, W.Va., was seventh, and the 7-Eleven in Bolivar, W.Va., was ninth.

Berkeley County accounted for $7.97 million in lottery sales; Jefferson County for $4.98 million; and Morgan County for $867,000.

"I come up from Winchester once in a while to play," said Charlie Haines, 70, of Winchester, Va. "I've been coming ever since the lottery started."

Cunningham said that when West Virginia started its lottery games in 1986, Virginia did not have lottery games.

Virginia customers got into the habit of crossing the state line to buy their lottery tickets and continue to buy them in West Virginia because Virginia does not have the popular, multi-state Powerball game, Cunningham said.

In May, when the Powerball jackpot reached a record-breaking $195 million, lottery fever peaked, Cunningham said.

"There were customers in line throughout the store and outside waiting to get in," Cunningham said.

The Powerball game helped drive West Virginia to a record year for lottery sales of more than $300 million, said West Virginia Lottery spokeswoman Nancy Bulla.

The West Virginia Lottery is expected to earn nearly $91.8 million from lottery sales, a 55 percent increase over last year, Bulla said.

The money goes to fund senior citizens' programs, education and tourism, she said.




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