Lottery business booming along Alabama border - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Lottery business booming along Alabama border

By Stephen Gallien - email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) – The intense debate over electronic bingo in Alabama appears to have no affect on people crossing state lines to play the lottery.

One of Tennessee's top-selling lottery outlets estimates 60-65% of its business comes from Alabama lottery players.

"The lottery has turned out to be our bread and butter," said Tim Abernathy of TNT Beer & Tobacco in Ardmore Tennessee.

Abernathy strategically placed his store so that it would be the first lottery outlet on Highway 53 coming out of Huntsville to capitalize on people coming from Alabama to buy lottery tickets.

"Lot of work, lot more than we expected, but that's ok, we can handle it," said Abernathy.

Statistics from the Tennessee Lottery show Abernathy's store has more than handled the business.  TNT Beer & Tobacco ranks second on the top 10 list of Tennessee Lottery retailers since the lottery's inception.  Four of the top six lottery outlets in terms of sales are located on the Tennessee-Alabama state line just north of Huntsville.

Net proceeds from Tennessee Lottery ticket sales currently average over $5 million per week according to the Tennessee Lottery website.

It's not just Tennessee that sees big business from Alabama lottery players, who also travel in droves to buy a chance at quick riches from the Georgia Lottery.

Top-selling Georgia Lottery retailers can be found along Interstate 20 and Interstate 85 in Haralson, Troup and Muscogee Counties, all of which border Alabama.

Some lottery players come back to Alabama with more money than when they crossed the state lines.

The Georgia Lottery has already produced a new millionaire in 2010 in John Tull of Phenix City.  Tull won $2.5 million in January on a Millionaire Jumbo Bucks card.

Since 2008, six other Alabamians have won a million dollars or more playing the Georgia lottery.

A look at the more than 100 winners posted on the Tennessee Lottery website shows a healthy number of winners from Alabama.  They include Huntsville's Nancy Dugas, who won $25,000 while playing the Tennessee Millionaires Club, and Annie Baker of Huntsville who won a $140,000 Pick 5 Jackpot July 27th.

 The biggest prize ever won at Abernathy's TNT Beer & Tobacco was $200,000, won in late 2009 by a Tennessee woman.  A nurse from Huntsville won a $50,000 prize which was the largest awarded to an Alabamian playing the Tennessee Lottery at TNT Beer & Tobacco.

Alabama lottery players are hopeful the Legislature will approve electronic bingo casinos or adopt a lottery.

" I think the lottery is a good idea because other states, they use the lottery for the educational system, so with Alabama selling I feel the lottery could bring a lot of funds to bring more teachers, more programs to our educational system," said lottery player Chris Yancey.

Until that happens, Abernathy will keep catering to Alabama lottery players.

"We're going to stay with it until Alabama gets theirs," said Abernathy.  "That will cut our business in half if Alabama gets theirs."

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