With Americans spending $US65.5 billion dollars last year on lottery tickets, it’s clear that the lottery is a huge boon for the economy and large part of our national culture. Every time a winning lottery ticket is sold, it makes big headlines for the winner.
But rarely reported is what happens to the people who sold the winning tickets. That’s what Boston-based photographer Edie Bresler took as her subject in her ongoing project, We Sold A Winner.
Since 2009, Bresler has traveled to small convenience stores all over the Northeast, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and photographed the owners and patrons who continue to frequent the stores.
When stores sell winning lottery tickets, they receive a commission that is a percentage of the prize total, usually 1%. That commission varies greatly from state to state and many state lotteries place a cap on how much commission can be won. Nonetheless, a winning ticket can be just as life-changing for the person that sells it as the person who buys it.
As part of the project, Bresler has been collecting stories from patrons and customers about how the lottery affects them or why they play. What she’s discovered is a picture of middle class America still struggling mightily against an economy that doesn’t allow them to get ahead.
“This economy has been doing so poorly for so many people and we talk about it in so many abstract ways…To many of the [lottery players] I’ve talked to, they’ve been working hard, they’ve been saving, and they still feel like they have nothing or very little to show for it. They just want a good life for them and their family, so they play the lottery,” said Bresler. “They feel like that’s their only way to get there.”
To see more of Bresler’s work, check out her website.
This store in Somerville, MA sold a winning $US1,000,000 scratch ticket in 2009 and received a $US10,000 bonus commission.
Amar, owner and proprietor of Neighbourhood Market in Somerville, MA, sold a winning $US1,000,000 scratch ticket. He used the $US10,000 bonus commission to make a down payment on a house nearby, where he still lives with his wife and 2 daughters.
On August 25, 2013, an unclaimed Powerball ticket worth $US1,000,000, sold at this store in Rye, NY, expired. Depending on the game, players have between 182 days to one year to claim a winning prize. The owner of this store posted hand-written signs urging his customers to check their tickets before the deadline.
Azores Tobacco in Fall River, MA sold a winning $US1,000,000 scratch ticket in 2011.
In March 2012, the jackpot for MegaMillions reached a record $US640 million. One of three winning tickets was sold in this Motomart located in the small town of Red Bud (pop. 3683), Illinois. FKG Oil, a corporation that owns 73 other stores received the maximum bonus commission, which in Illinois is $US500,000. In an unusual gesture, they gifted $US50,000 (1%) to be shared by the 7 workers in the store.
Denise, the manager at Motomart, received $US25,000 of the bonus from FKG Oil. With her windfall, she purchased a bassoon for her husband, a retired member of the Air Force Band, who had always wanted to learn the instrument but could not afford it. “We tried to get a bank loan several years ago but were turned down,” Denise told Bresler.
In 2009, Fast Freddies in Wakefield, MA was the site of the first winning $US10,000,000 scratch ticket in the country. The owner received a $US50,000 bonus commission, which is the maximum pay-out in Massachusetts.
Located in Custer, Michigan (pop. 284), Bonser’s Market sold a $US13.3 million winning classic lotto ticket in August 2013. The owner received a $US5000 commission, which is the maximum bonus paid out in Michigan.
Brother-in-laws Rakesh and Ashok run Levittown News & Tobacco in Fairless Hills, PA — a suburb located outside Philadelphia. They received a $US100,000 bonus commission after selling a winning $US50,000,000 Powerball ticket in 2012.
A winning $US1,000,000 Powerball ticket was sold at Patron Convenience Store in Washington D.C. to Catherine Jackson, a retired federal worker.
Harry Patel is the owner of Jays in Lowell, MA. Neighbourhood players consider his store very lucky because two winning $US1,000,000 tickets were purchased there in the past 10 years.
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