Increase in NH storeowners’ lottery bonus weighed

Right now it’s capped at $30k, but a hike to $75k is sought

If someone walks into your corner store and walks away with a $160 million lottery ticket, your takeaway as the storeowner is capped at $30,000, the lowest such retail lottery cap in the United States.

The NH Lottery Commission would like to increase that possible retail jackpot to $75,000, a 150 percent raise, although it would still lag behind Massachusetts’s $100,000.

Not that that those jackpot happen very often, mind you. A $3 million or more hit – enough to reach that cap – only strikes the Granite State once every five years, according to the fiscal note on House Bill 444. But that note was written before a $5.75 million Lucky for Life ticket was sold at a Manchester Hannaford supermarket on March 3.

Retailers make their money on nickels and pennies, literally: a nickel for every dollar of lottery tickets sold, and a penny for every dollar of winnings, with a few other incentives thrown in. All of those coins add up to about $16 million for retailers in total commissions, with another million or so for their share of the winnings.

However, even there New Hampshire is behind neighboring states. Maine pays 7 percent on ticket sales, and Vermont 5.75 percent, though they have the same low cap on big winnings. Massachusetts has a 5 percent base, but with that enticing higher cap.

So what’s another $45,000 twice a decade?

“Nothing,” said Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the NH Lottery Commission. “That’s why it passed the Senate so easily.”

HB444 was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, who in his former life as a journalist once wrote about how one storeowner shared his jackpot with employees.

“I’ve seen it happen all the time,” McIntyre said. “They pay their taxes, and then the rest is found money. Everybody gets a bonus. It’s nice,” he said.

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