Crossing the border in search of a jackpot
Each day Nevadans step across the state line engraved in the floor of Gold Ranch Casino’s California Lottery store and drop a couple bills for the chance to win a mammoth jackpot.It’s a form of interstate commerce that has made Gold Ranch, and a number of other lottery retailers positioned just over the California state line, the top lottery ticket sellers in the state.On Saturday, the crowds swelled into huge lines for a chance to win the $84 million jackpot at the lottery store located across the parking lot from the Gold Ranch casino and gas station.
“It was unbelievable Saturday,” said Michelle Czekai, retail manager for Gold Ranch. “It was non-stop.”If you forget the 200,000 people just minutes to the east in Reno, Gold Ranch’s Verdi store would seem an odd spot for lottery sales to flourish. For dozens of miles, Gold Ranch’s nearest California neighbors are a handful of houses on either side of the Truckee River canyon.But Gold Ranch, which usually sells the second highest amount of tickets in California, isn’t banking on California customers. Like top lottery seller Primm Valley Lottery, a stopover on Interstate 15, which connects the desert of Southern California with Southern Nevada, Gold Ranch’s business comes from Nevadans hoping for a huge California jackpot. It’s a strategy that landed them the California Lottery Retailer of the Year in 2003.
Francie Hulihee, a Nevadan who stepped over the state line to collect her modest lottery winnings on Monday morning, said, “It’s just another form of gambling.”Hulihee, who previously lived in California and played the lottery there, frequents Gold Ranch enough to know the lottery cashiers well. She comes on the lottery store’s off days to buy her tickets so she can beat the crowds.Nevada is one of nine states in the country that does not have a lottery. Repeated attempts to vote a lottery through the state legislature have failed, a welcome sign for Gold Ranch’s continued success.
“It’s talk and I think that’s all it is,” said Aaron Fox of attempts to create a Nevada state game. “I don’t see a Nevada Lottery in the future.” Jim Underwood, a Reno resident, was also in the lottery store on Monday. He has witnessed the lines that sometimes extend out into the parking lot.Underwood said when the jackpots are high the store is packed with Reno residents whose closest chance for a lottery jackpot is Gold Ranch.”It’s just the closest,” said Underwood, as he strode out into Nevada to reach his car.