Used to be, store owner Sonny Singh would have gotten a nice bonus for selling a winning $157 million jackpot ticket. No more, after the Washington Legislature reduced commissions to stores selling lottery tickets.
If you’re Nirbhai Singh, 36, who started out delivering for Pizza Hut and now owns a couple of 7-Elevens, what else can you do but be philosophical about losing out on $50,000?
It was his West Seattle store at 9200 35th Ave. S.W. that sold the winning $157 million ticket in Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot.
The winner has yet to come forward.
As for Singh, whom everybody calls “Sonny,” until last year his store would have gotten a $50,000 bonus for selling a winning Powerball or Mega Millions ticket.
Lots of states have such bonuses as a way to entice stores to participate.
But last year, in wrangling out a budget, the Washington Legislature decided that, hey, we can increase revenue by reducing commissions to stores selling lottery tickets.
The state got rid of all bonuses, including 1 percent for jackpots in the state Lotto and Hit 5. In Fiscal 2015 that had amounted to $468,000, spread among 57 retailers.
So. Time to be philosophical.
“That’s OK. What can I do?” says Sonny. “It’s the law. It’s not just something done to me.”
“It’d have been nice to wake up and get $50,000,” he says.
His family is from India, and he’s worked hard to own those two 7-Elevens. The pizza delivery, then driving for a limo service, getting help from his parents to buy his first franchise, putting in the hours at the store.
Sonny says he had to explain to his employees that he really wasn’t getting a bonus that could possibly be shared with them.
“They were wondering,” says Sonny.
An association that represents independent grocers in this state says its 385 members “are pretty angry” about the end of bonuses.
“This happened right at the tail end of the last session. There was never a bill or any discussion,” says Jan Gee, head of the Washington Food Industry Association. “It was one of those things they did behind closed doors.”
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The amorphous legislative staff decided it needed $12 million more from the lottery.
So gone were the big bonuses to stores, gone were commissions for selling jackpot tickets in the state Lotto and in Hit 5.
And decreased from 6 percent to 5 percent were commissions for selling tickets to individual state games, and decreased from 7 percent to 5 percent were commissions for selling tickets for multistate games.
“It’s discouraging when this happens,” says Gee.
There weren’t many big bonuses such as the $50,000 that would have been given to Sonny.
But when it happened, says Gee, “A small, family-owned type store could buy a new refrigeration unit, or a new oven for the bakery.”
The Washington Lottery says it is planning to celebrate Sonny’s 7-Eleven selling the winning $157 million ticket with a media event and some big signs for his store.