Tony Valdivia stopped at the in Fox Point this week for 20-ounce Sprite, a bag of chips and his daily Fire 'N' Dice lottery ticket.
"I get one here or in Waukegan, wherever I happen to be," said Valdivia, a landscaper. "I won $1,000 once."
While a kitty like that is enough to make anyone purr, sales of lottery tickets tanked with the economy, according to state officials.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue reported nearly $481 million in gross sales in fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, up slightly from the previous year. But the number was still down almost 5.5 percent from 2006.
That comes as no surprise Roger Breunig, the owner of the Flightline Amoco, N71W13161 Appleton Ave., in Brookfield.
"We've only had the lottery here for three years," Breunig said. "I had a station in Milwaukee in 1993 and it could be a pain. There was just one window with a cashier and things could back up with lottery sales."
Brandon Scholz, the executive director of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, said he believes convenience stores sell more lottery tickets than traditional grocers.
"I heard someone say that people go into a grocery to buy a lottery ticket and walk out with $100 in groceries," Scholz said. "I definitely do not see that. It's the other way around — people buy lottery tickets after buying their groceries."
When the jackpot goes up into the millions, long lines form everywhere tickets are sold.
Lois, a clerk the the in Port Washington who declined to give her last name, said sales at the store located at 1011 W. Wisconsin Ave. are down. She also attributed the dip to the lagging economy.
"But we have one gal who comes in every week and buys $60 in tickets from the machine every week," she said. "A lot of the regulars talk about the 'Miracle Mile' in Fond du Lac where there were so many big winners. But gas is too expensive to drive way up there."
Josh Ortman, the manager of the North Hills Self Serve at N75W13916 Appleton Ave. in Menomonee Falls, said he thinks recent sales have actually been worse than last year. Actual sales for the recently ended fiscal year will not be available for several weeks, according to state officials.
"You still see the sales go up with a big jackpot," Ortman said. "That's when a group of people working in an office will pool their money and buy 100 or 150 tickets. But overall sales are down quite a bit."
Tim Wick is an occasional player who also sells tickets from his Shorewood business, at 4496 N. Oakland Ave.
"I always bet the same numbers, 7-3-4," said Wick. "I won $870 on a Pick 3 last March. I have no idea where the numbers came from. I just like them."
Not exactly enough to retire on, but enough to pay a bill or two, Wick said.
Wick noted that sales of tickets are definitely down. "People just don't have the extra cash to throw around," he said.
Karen Williams, the customer service manager for the at N63W23735 Main St. in Sussex, said she hasn't noticed much difference in the number of lottery purchases.
"We have a pretty mature clientele," said Williams. "Some spend $5 or $6 a week, others come in daily."
Most of Williams' gambling customers are retired men. Men, she said, are more inclined to re-invest all their winnings in more tickets while women buy one or two and take the rest of their money home.
Sellers have to be careful when people ask for a "mega" ticket. Do they mean Mega Millions or Mega Bucks?
"If we push the wrong button, we have to buy the ticket," Williams. "A lot of time when that happens, the customer says, 'No! no! I'll take it because it's probably a winner!'"
Shawntane Hutchins, a clerk at the , 209 W. Silver Spring Drive in Whitefish Bay, sells a lot of tickets but rarely buys one.
"I won $1 once," Hutchins said. "But the ticket cost me $10 so I guess I lost $9."
Some customers ask for the code printed on the ticket before buying. "If they think the numbers are lucky, they'll buy it," she said.
Ron Gespardo is a property manager in Whitefish Bay who stops in the Kaul-Mart daily for a lottery ticket.
"I won $300 about 60 days ago," Gespardo said. "It's cheap entertainment."
State officials note that almost $273 million was paid out from the $481 million grossed on lottery sales in year that ended June 30, 2010. The lottery also provided $127 million in property tax relief, according to state officials. That translates to about $82 for the average property owner.