Small But Mighty

When it comes to lottery sales, even a small retailer can pack a powerful punch. Take Finish Line in Hattiesburg for example.

What the store lacks in size – if it were a home, it could accommodate two people, but only if they really like each other – it makes up for in location, preparation and, most of all, relationships with customers.

Even though it’s perched alongside Hardy Street, the main East-West drag in the Hub City, Finish Line is, primarily, a neighborhood store. Nearby residents file in throughout the day, from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., at a steady pace. The owner, Mickey Malhotra, knows his clientele, and good-natured banter between owner and patrons is routine.

“It’s like a family relationship,” Malhotra said. “Their problems are our problems. Some of them come in two, maybe three times a day, and a lot of them play the Lottery.”

Regular or not, customers know Finish Line sells Mississippi Lottery products. They can’t miss it. Entering the establishment from the west-side entrance, the customer is almost surrounded, facing 48 scratch-off dispensers towering atop the counter, the Lottery’s play center to their left, and to the right, the side of an automated teller machine serves as an in-store billboard touting recent winners.

There are multiple certificates for selling big winning Cash 4 tickets, a $10,000 winner for “$10,000 Payout” scratch-off game, and a $100,000 winner in Powerball. Even more certificates proclaiming other winners are posted, facing outside, on the glass wall.

Early on a Thursday morning in November, one customer hopes to join the list very soon.

“Gimme three of the 37s and three of the 38s,” he tells the clerk behind the counter, referring the numbers of the bins containing “Triple Diamond Payout” and the “Jackson” tickets, two of the Lottery’s $20 games.

“I played those same games yesterday, and I didn’t win,” he said. “Today’s gonna be different.”

Malhotra, who took over the store in July 2018, said he was excited to add the Mississippi Lottery to his lineup when it started in 2019.

His customers are no less enthusiastic.