Bobby Boparai was an over-the-road truck driver based in California back in the late 1990s when his brother-in-law called with a business opportunity.
"He had three to four gas stations in Milwaukee," the native of India said. "He offered to help me buy one and then, he help me do the business, learn the cash register, how to sell Lottery tickets."
It is that last skill that Boparai's Marathon Mini Mart in northwest Milwaukee at 4312 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., has done very well at over the last five years. Since 2008, a News 3 analysis of the Wisconsin Lottery winner database shows Boparai has sold 93 winning tickets worth $600 and higher. It's a total that's more than any other Lottery retailer in the state during that time frame.
"We get the money from the Lottery and it helps pay the bills, you know?" Boparai said. "Otherwise, business look not like before. Business slow for everybody, you know. We are happy to have the Lottery, so we can run the business good."
According to the Wisconsin Lottery, retailers earn a 6.25 percent commission on scratch ticket sales and a 5.5 percent commission on online sales. They also earn a percentage back for selling big winning tickets. Boparai's 93 tickets amounted to $584,050 in winnings.
Records show Boparai's Marathon Mini Mart is well ahead of Woodman's Food Market No. 16, on Madison's east side at 3817 Milwaukee St., which sold 68 similar tickets over the last five years. Those winners accounted for $369,839 in prize money.
"I know we do a lot of sales, so I'd assume we would have a high percentage of winners," Dawn Lopez, who works at the Customer Service desk of the Woodman's store, said. "Everybody, if they win, they're going to buy me dinner or take me on a trip and some people specifically ask for losers because if you ask for a winner, that's not lucky, so they ask for a loser and think they have a better chance of getting a winner."
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The Keefe Avenue Mobil at 3510 N. 7th St. in Milwaukee has the third highest total with 62 $600 and up winners. That adds up to $514,897 in prize money. The Pick 'N Save on Milwaukee's south side at 3701 S. 27th St. sold the fourth most big winners, a total of 60 with $1,533,660 in prize money. The Durand Avenue Mart in Racine at 3900 Durand Ave. rounded out the top five, selling 59 such tickets at $195,897 in total prize money.
There were a total of 29,852 winning tickets worth $600 or more sold since 2008 in Wisconsin. The reason News 3 used that as the point of reference is because all such winnings of that dollar amount or higher needs to be collected at a Lottery office.
Boparai's store is full of regulars like Tony Driver, who spends $7 every day at the store hoping to add his name to the list of winners displayed on the Mini Mart's walls.
"I'll just be glad when it's my turn to win," he said laughing. "I'd appreciate if my tickets would be the winners because I could use (the money) right now."
Boparai's wife plays the Lottery, but he was the one who almost made the list. He made a mistake typing in the numbers for a regular customer one time who decided against keeping the ticket. Boparai ate the cost and turned on the television that night to find out he had won $500.
His brother-in-law, who owns a convenience store/gas station across the street, did not make the list of retailers who sold 10 or more $600 winners and up since 2008.
Boparai's favorite winner was a $178,000 jackpot that he sold to a regular customer.
"He don't know," he said with a huge smile on his face. "Then, I tell him, you were the winner. He got so happy. His whole family come over here to say thanks."