03/30/06 — Lottery tickets debut across North Carolina

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Lottery tickets debut across North Carolina

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on March 30, 2006 1:49 PM

James Corey walked into the Exxon on Spence Avenue this morning feeling like a winner. The Dudley native tossed a few dollars on the counter and walked outside -- a lottery ticket clinched in his hands.

The game was Blackjack, and like a Las Vegas gambler, Corey slapped the ticket on the hood of his truck and fumbled through his pockets before pulling out a quarter and testing his luck.

North Carolinians finally got their lottery this morning, as four games debuted at 6 a.m. Two of the games, Tic Tac Toe and North Carolina Education Lottery, cost $1 and carry prizes of up to $5,000. Blackjack, the $2 game, yields up to $21,000, and the $5 Carolina Cash Game has the biggest potential pay-out, $100,000.

Corey, 29, said a dream last night of winning big was all the luck he needed as he scratched off the dealer's hand. Unfortunately, in Blackjack, it's impossible to beat 21.

"I don't know how the dealer hand is 21," he said. "It just doesn't seem right. Maybe I'm meant to win somewhere else. In the dream, I walked into a gas station and bought one ticket and I scratched off a $1,000 prize.

"It's a sign."

In neighboring Duplin County, Gina and Nicole Arrostuto huddled with blankets and coffee outside the Rones Chapel Friendly Mart at 5:30 a.m. waiting for the store to open.

The Arrostutos said they have been living down the road near Mount Olive for the past five years. They came from California, and when they learned North Carolina didn't have a lottery they said, "Oh my gosh!"

When the store finally opened at 6 a.m., they brought their zip-lock sack of money and lucky wheat penny to the counter to buy several of each of the four kinds of tickets.

"We're going to buy more tickets with the winnings," Gina said. "And see how long we can stay on a roll."

Back in Wayne, Raul Juarez was on his way to work when he decided to take a chance on the lottery. Juarez, 22, was also playing Blackjack.

And like Corey, he came up empty.

"Man, nobody wins these things," he said. "I should have known better."

Despite low odds, many residents were already thinking about ways to spend their winnings -- even before they had purchased a ticket.

Morris Outlaw said winning won't change the man he is. But it might change the look of his home.

"This is not going to affect me one way or another," he said. "I'm still going to be me. I never won anything before. If I get anything big, I will remodel my house."

Outlaw won $17.

Others won a little more, some up to $50.

Donna Humphrey said she sold 94 tickets in the first 45 minutes of business this morning. Mrs. Humphrey, manager of the Arrington Comco won $25 playing Tic Tac Toe, she said.

Bobby Garrett said he stopped off on his way to school to add a little extra cash to his weekend budget. He won $50 off a $1 ticket.

"I've loved 'Tic Tac Toe' ever since I was a kid," he said. "I knew it was the right choice."

A few people didn't even remember the lottery kicked off this morning.

Jay Greenfield headed into the Wilco Hess store on N.C. 55 in Mount Olive to pay for his gas, but ended up buying a few tickets when he realized they were on sale.

"I've got to have one of them," he said, adding he would expand his bail bondsman business and his car lot if he won big.

"I bet you half the world will be buying these today," he said while scratching his cards.

In the end though, Greenfield shared the fate of many hopefuls -- a loss.

"Nothing today," he said. "Maybe next time."