TUPELO • At the Chevron Food Mart on the corner of South Gloster Street and Cliff Gookin Boulevard, owner Mike Arnous saw his first Mississippi Lottery buyers bright and early Monday.

“I went home Sunday night at 1 a.m. and came back at 5, and we started selling,” he said.

And there were some winners early on, with a couple of customers nabbing $100 each.

For now, the Mississippi Lottery is selling only scratch-off tickets, but on Jan. 30, lottery ticket sellers will be able to buy Powerball and Mega Millions multi-state tickets.

“That’s where the big money will be,” Arnous said.

Arnous, who said he used to buy $10 worth of tickets every time he traveled to Memphis, said his customers have been excited about possibly hitting a jackpot. He’s excited at the increased traffic at the store.

Retailers selling the tickets get 6% of sales, and if someone hits a large jackpot, the retailer gets $50,000.

But for now, customers will have four scratch-off tickets from which to choose: A $5, two $2 options and a $1 option.

Several customers at the Chevron bought more than one ticket, with one winning $40 on a $2 scratch off. Another customer won $50. Winners can remain anonymous.

“We have to educate them a bit on how it’s played, but they’re also buying more product in the store,” Arnous said. “We’re excited about it.”

Roughly 1,200 convenience stores and other sites across the state were selling tickets on Monday.

For decades, Mississippi was one of only six states without a lottery. There was strong opposition from politically powerful churches. People often drove to neighboring states such as Louisiana to buy tickets there.

But in 2018, lawmakers authorized a lottery as a way to finance road maintenance and infrastructure needs. At the time, the state had been forced to close hundreds of unsafe bridges. For the first 10 years, the first $80 million a year from lottery revenue will go to infrastructure needs. After the $80 million benchmark is hit, the rest goes to education. After the 10-year period is over, the first $80 million will go to the state’s general fund, with the remainder continuing to go toward education. By 7 a.m. Monday morning – two hours after tickets went on sale – the state had made $300,000 from its share of the ticket sales, said Meg Annison, the lottery’s spokeswoman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com

Twitter: @dennisseid

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