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Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2001

Retailers bank on renewal of state lottery

March 10, 2001

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For Charles Waymire, renewal of the Kansas Lottery would mean more people at his convenience store and, he hopes, more money in his pocket.

That's because Waymire is one of Kansas' most successful lottery retailers. He's so successful, in fact, that he's planning to build a keno parlor onto his Total Stop-N-Save store to accommodate the scores of players who drop by to drink coffee and try their luck.

"We all have a little gambling blood in us, be it pitching pennies or betting on high school games," Waymire said with a smile. "So you might as well have something where you can control it."

The only thing standing between Waymire and his plans is the Legislature. But he isn't worried.

"If I didn't think they would do it, I wouldn't be thinking about adding on," Waymire said.

A bill in the Legislature would keep the lottery in business for six years past its scheduled expiration of July 1, 2002. The stumbling block hasn't been the lottery itself, but whether to use $4 million in lottery revenues to subsidize airfares in Kansas.

The Senate already has approved the measure, and the House is to vote on it Monday. House leaders expect it to pass and go to Gov. Bill Graves.

"I can't imagine them doing away with the goose that laid the golden egg," Waymire said.

That "goose" is expected to generate $60 million for state programs in the budget year that begins July 1.

Waymire, who bought his store 3 1/2 years ago, is not concerned about the number of years for which the lottery is renewed.

"It's just an arbitrary figure. If it's run properly, it won't end in six years," Waymire said. "If it's not run properly, it probably should end. I think the demand will be there."

His store, on Ottawa's south side, is a popular spot. Customers sit at three tables in an aisle between cases of sodas stacked against the wall and shelves filled with motor oil and other automotive products.

"It's enjoyable to see them come in and have fun. I see very few abuse the gambling," Waymire said.

But the store can get crowded as customers keep their eyes on the video screen on which a new keno game appears every four minutes. Keno is the most popular game at the store.

"We don't make them feel like a second-class citizen while they play," he said. "If they are there two hours, we're glad they are."

At the urging of some customers, Waymire has decided to build a 12 foot-by-40 foot addition with space for 20 customers, with comfortable chairs and decorations. He hopes to have it ready by May.

"If I'm going to do it, I am going to do it right, make it first cabin. I know the customers will appreciate it," he said.

So far, Waymire said, the lottery has being doing right by him. He keeps 5 percent of the sales as his commission.

"It brings customers into the store, and that is the name of the game," he said.

Of the 1,836 lottery retailers statewide, Waymire's store finished 17th last year with sales of nearly $468,000. Many of the retailers who did better are in Wichita or on the border of Oklahoma, which doesn't have a lottery.

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