For retailer, sale of (unclaimed) winning lottery ticket is good news

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Mystic — It’s no secret — at least not now — that the still fairly new C Depot Citgo at 48 Stonington Road sells lottery tickets.

Word tends to get out once you’ve sold a $2 million winner. And it doesn’t hurt a bit if the prize goes unclaimed for a while. Reporters start dropping by.

“I don’t even have a (lottery) sign outside yet,” Anis Alawi, who opened C Depot last month, said Wednesday, the fifth day since the June 14 Mega Millions drawing. Somebody bought a ticket at the shop that matched five of the six numbers drawn, which would have been good for a $1 million prize. The ticket-buyer also matched a randomly drawn “multiplier” that doubled it.

Whoever’s holding that ticket has 175 more days to cash in at Connecticut Lottery Corp. headquarters in Rocky Hill.

Alawi, 36, of Clinton had been selling lottery tickets at C Depot for about 10 days when the $2 million winner was purchased. Alawi bought the Route 1 property on Mystic's Stonington side from Jim Sullivan, who used to operate a garage and sell Sunoco gas there.

The “C” in C Depot stands for convenience. The “Depot” is a play on Home Depot, known for its variety of merchandise, Alawi said.

“We have everything a convenience store has — plus more stuff,” he said. “A vape shop, a cigar shop ...” And lottery tickets, of course.

Alawi's been in the gas station business for a decade, having formerly owned one in Groton. He bought one in Middletown about five years ago. In all that time, he said, the biggest winning ticket he ever sold was for $50,000.

One of Alawi’s Mystic employees called him in Middletown to tell him a customer came in to say he’d heard on the news that C Depot had sold a $2 million winner.

“He thinks it was a guy in his 60s,” Alawi said of his employee's description of the likely ticket-buyer. With Mystic being such a hot tourist spot, it’s anybody’s guess if the buyer's local, he said.

Statewide, 5,894 winning Mega Millions tickets were sold for the June 14 drawing, the prizes ranging from $2 to $2 million.

Big lottery winners sometimes redeem their tickets promptly, sometimes not. “It runs the gamut,” said Tara Chozet, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Lottery Corp.

In one recent case, a $66,666 winner waited until two days before the deadline to collect. As of this week, a half-dozen six- and seven-figure prizes were unclaimed, including a $1 million Mega Millions winner sold in Haddam and the $2 million ticket sold in Mystic.

“It’s a personal decision,” Chozet said. “People may want to take time to consult a lawyer or a financial adviser.”

Alawi was pleased to learn that he’ll get his $2,500 retailer's commission for selling the $2 million winner regardless of whether it’s ever redeemed.

For lottery winners, staying anonymous isn’t so easy.

“Publicizing that ‘real people’ really win is important in maintaining the public’s trust in our games,” the lottery says on its website. That’s why it routinely lists winners and their stories on the site and social media. Certain information — names and places of residence — is considered public information. Street addresses and phone numbers are never published.

A new report released this week by LendEDU, a for-profit service that evaluates financial products, shows Americans, particularly those in the Northeast, spend a fair amount of money on lottery tickets.

In 2017, Massachusetts residents spent more per capita on lottery tickets than those of any other state — $737 per person, which equates to nearly 1 percent of Massachusetts' household income, according to the research. Rhode Islanders ranked second, spending $502 per resident, and New Yorkers were fourth, spending $476 apiece.

Connecticut’s per capita spending on lottery tickets was $321, the eighth most among the states. North Dakotans spent the least, $35. The national average was $220.

Alawi said he expected to sell about $1,000 worth of tickets a week at C Depot, far less than the $18,000 to $22,000 a week he sells at his Middletown Mobil.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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