Mississippi residents were given the chance to play the lottery for the first time in the state's history this week with scratch-off tickets launching on Monday.
The Mississippi Lottery Corporation, which was established under the Alyce G. Clarke Mississippi Lottery Law passed in 2018, the same law that created the lottery, reported nearly 1,200 retailers across the state were selling scratch-off tickets.
Sales for the lottery across the state surpassed $2.5 million on Monday alone, according to the MLC, resulting in roughly $570,000 in profit for the state.
As part of the legislation that created the lottery, all profits up to $80 million will go toward an infrastructure fund designated for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges across Mississippi. Additional profits after $80 million will go into an education fund for the state.
While lottery sales became active at 5 a.m. Monday, Chareda Boykins said customers visiting the Marathon where she works were asking about the scratch-off tickets long before then.
"The questions started a long time before it came out," Boykins said. "People were calling up to ask when we were selling tickets, how much they were, things like that. My grandmother even asked about it."
Boykins' grandmother eventually ended up buying a $1 ticket, one of four options available to Mississippians. The other choices are two $2 tickets and one $5 ticket.
"The one dollar tickets have been the most popular so far," Boykins said.
Clare O'Nan visited the Marathon on Tuesday and said she could not wait to start playing the lottery.
"I've played it before in other places," O'Nan said. "I'm just terrible at it. It's exciting though."
O'Nan called herself a winner after one of her tickets earned her another ticket, free of charge, something she only realized after scratching much more of the ticket off than she initially anticipated.
"There is definitely a learning curve," she said, checking her free ticket more carefully.
While O'Nan was reveling in her win, the MLC announced Tuesday the first major winner in the state was David Bond of Wiggins.
In a press release put out by the MLC, Bond said he was going deer hunting and bought tickets on the way. Only after returning home from his trip did Bond find a $2,000 winning ticket to be in his possession.
"I called my wife and told her I won $2,000," Bond said in the MLC press release. "She got so excited. I cannot believe this happened. It's not the biggest win to hit, but I think it's cool to be the first one."
Boykins said lottery fever in Starkville was boiling, with rumors flying left and right from customers claiming to have heard about people winning big in Columbus and Tupelo.
"Everyone wants to know if there's been a big winner in Starkville yet," Boykins said.
Some are so excited, Boykins said, they're trying to play too early. The cashier said she had already turned down one 17-year-old who tried to buy tickets.
"I looked at her license and saw her birthday was in 2002," Boykins said. "That was a bold move."
Another customer asked Boykins for $45 in gas and another $35 in lottery tickets.
"When he saw how much it was, he told me to put the gas back," Boykins said. "He said if he won he was going to buy more tickets."
After her customer scratched off his tickets and came up empty-handed, Boykins said he reluctantly came back for the gas he needed.
Despite the excitement, Boykins said she planned to avoid the lottery but was happy to continue watching others try and win.
"I don't think I want to play," Boykins said. "I don't have enough courage."
The Mississippi lottery will continue to be scratch-off tickets only until January of 2020, then Powerball and Mega Millions options will also be available to state residents.
Both Powerball and Mega Millions games are multi-state jackpots, meaning Mississippi residents will be competing against residents of other participating states. The scratch-off tickets are single-state games.