Obama gas station sells another big-dollar lottery ticket

hcahill@thestate.comSeptember 9, 2013 

The line of customers waiting to purchase lottery tickets at the North Columbia Obama Gas Station Monday afternoon was five deep at some points.

And if the periodic sounds of “Winner,” coming from a ticket-checking machine behind the counter signaling another winner, wasn’t enough to raise their optimism, the location’s past lottery success certainly was.

The convenience store at 5831 N. Main St. has attracted customers from Charlotte to Atlanta hoping to purchase a winning lottery ticket, owners said, after the station produced three major winning tickets within the past 17 months.

Last Friday marked the most recent in the string of big winning tickets when the station sold a $250,000 Mega Millions ticket. The station also sold a winning $2 million Powerball ticket in April 2012 and a $250,000 Mega Millions ticket in July 2012, S.C. Education Lottery officials said.

“We see a lot of people coming in,” said Khaled Alhanik, one of the attendants at the family-owned store named after President Barack Obama, the owners said, because they like him. “We sell more than we used to, especially after the $2 million winner. We consider ourselves to be a lucky store.”

Khaled and his cousin, Ali Alhanik, were busy Monday as they handled the surge of customers wanting to buy the next big ticket.

Columbia’s Edward Brookes is one of the store’s regular customers.

“I buy cards every day,” Brookes said. “I’m not playing for a lot. All I can do is buy a ticket and hope.”

Shopper Tonya Smith said she was not aware of the fortunes of past customers at the store, but she walked away a winner on Monday after earning $50 on the Fabulous Fifty scratch-off card.

“I had a feeling I was going to win,” she said on her way out of the store. “Fabulous Fifty, baby.”

Holli Armstrong, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Education Lottery, said it is very rare for one store to produce so many winners.

“I can’t think of another retailer that this has happened to in that amount of time,” Armstrong said. “This is the first time I have ever heard of it.”

Lottery officials say the total number of lottery tickets sold at that particular store compared to stores of similar size were not immediately available.

So far, there have been six Powerball jackpot winners in South Carolina. The most recent was a $259 million winning ticket sold at the Murphy’s gas station on Garners Ferry Road across from Wal-Mart in 2009. However, there has yet to be a Mega Millions jackpot winner in South Carolina.

And while the payouts have been big, none of the tickets sold at the Obama station have been jackpot winners. Obama shoppers no doubt hope that will change.

Reach Cahill at (803) 771-8610.

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