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Crash Course : Ticket Sellers Fill Lottery Schools to Learn Rules

Times Staff Writer

The auditorium filled slowly, but by 10 a.m. Tuesday about 100 bartenders, managers and market owners had gathered at the Brookhurst Community Center in Anaheim for an unusual seminar.

As a slide projector flashed the words “A Hot Product” on a screen at the front of the room, Sid Catlett, a sales representative for the California Lottery Commission, began discussing bookkeeping procedures, electronic fund transfers and the rules of play.

For another 100 retailers, lottery school was in session.

The “school” is part of a statewide effort to prepare retailers for the lottery, expected to be one of the largest gambling operations in the world when tickets go on sale Oct. 3.

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Retailers learned only in late August whether they had received provisional contracts to sell lottery tickets. For the last two weeks, Catlett and his fellow lottery representatives have been holding crash courses for 100 to 250 retailers at a time--in two to three classes a day--on the proper procedures for selling lottery tickets.

When the sessions end tonight, nearly all of Orange County’s 1,572 lottery retailers are expected to have attended one seminar. Some have come more than once. Lottery sales representative Joe Gonzales said one car-wash owner was “so enthused that he came back and brought his whole crew"--workers from each of his 20 outlets.

In the 45-minute session, retailers are told that they must not sell tickets to minors and that their licenses can be suspended if they do. They are also told that they cannot accept credit cards or checks for lottery tickets. Under the rules, retailers must pay off $2 and $5 winners but tell those winning from $100 up to $2 million to write to the Lottery Commission in Sacramento to collect their prizes.

In addition to the seminar, lottery representatives expect to visit all retail ticket outlets in the county before Oct. 3 to answer questions and offer ideas for promoting ticket sales.

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So far, procedures for selling tickets do not seem too complex, some retailers said after Tuesday’s class.

“I heard there would be a lot of paper work, but it doesn’t sound that way,” said Joyce Young, general manager of the Chee Chee Club (“Girls, Games, Good Times”), a Santa Ana bar that features exotic dancers.

“I think this will help improve our business. You can stop in, have a beer, see a pretty girl and buy a lottery ticket.”

Retailers are not expected to make much money from ticket sales, but they could profit from the additional traffic that tickets are expected to generate. For each $1 lottery ticket sold, the retailer gets only 5 cents. Fifty cents pays for prizes, 34 cents goes toward state education and 11 cents is directed to lottery administration.

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Some retailers, however, are worried about the Lottery Commission’s plans to handle ticket distribution through electronic banking. Under the system, when a retailer buys tickets, the commission will electronically “sweep” his bank account, deducting the price of tickets purchased and crediting unsold tickets to the account.

“That sounds a little bit difficult. The computer could make an error,” said Sal Saleh of Sam’s Market in Chino. When the first game begins, the Lottery Commission will be sweeping his market’s regular bank account. But Saleh, like a growing number of lottery retailers, said he plans to set up a separate bank account soon, just for the lottery.

Concern Over Security

Other retailers are worried about security. “I was surprised. They did not mention security,” said Henry Sarrouf, manager of a number of Winchell’s doughnut shops in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

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Sarrouf and Gene Shulz, another Winchell’s manager, said they plan to pursue that question later with lottery officials and other Winchell’s executives. For now, they said, they will train their employees in the lottery procedures spelled out Tuesday.

Although he said preparations for the lottery seem adequate, Shulz was uncertain about how the system will work. Still, the lottery game is “going to be interesting,” he said.

“All kinds of people anticipate winning that ($2-million) jackpot,” Shulz said.

The odds on that, however, are 25 million to 1.

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