CHATHAM — Ricky Patnam, a clerk at the Citgo at 8258 S. King Drive, has a foolproof tip for winning the Illinois Lottery: "If you want to win, you have to play."
Patnam, 34, should know. He oversees the store that has sold the most big-ticket winners in Chicago in the last five years, according to a DNAinfo Chicago analysis of Illinois Lottery data that sought to find which stores are bestowed with bit more luck.
Patnam's Citgo has sold five big-ticket winners — for $20,000 or more — totaling more than $350,000.
“It’s a lucky shop,” said Patnam, a clerk who has been working there for eight years. The auto repair and gasoline station that sits at Martin Luther King Drive and 83rd Street is the top seller of winning lotto tickets in Chicago, and among the top 25 retailers of lotto tickets in the state of Illinois, he said.
In all, 17 stores have sold three or more big-ticket winners since June 2010, according to the DNAinfo Chicago analysis, which looked at winners of dozens of Illinois Lottery games. Thousands of people have won at stores across the state, but the analysis extrapolated only winners in Chicago.
At Patnam's Chatham store, "We sell more lotto tickets and instant [scratchers] than gasoline," he said.
Over the years, Patnam has sold many of the winning tickets, including a $100,000 prize.
“After someone wins, they smile and give us a thumbs-up, letting us know they’ve won and leave,” Patnam said. “They don’t make a big deal about it.”
Patnam can't explain how his customers have been so lucky. Neither can Mike Lang, spokesman for the Lottery.
"It is a lottery. It’s all random. You never know," Lang said.
While Patnam's Citgo sold the most big-ticket winners, other stores across the city also sold numerous winners.
The Shell station at 3181 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square sold four winners, including a $250,000 Lucky Lotto ticket, totaling $450,000.
A McKinley Park Shell at 3501 S. Damen Ave. also sold four winners, including a $1 million Super Cash instant ticket. In all, it's sold more than $1.2 million in winners.
Fourteen other stores sold at least three winners, including a Roseland Citgo at 10007 S. Michigan Ave. that sold a $4 million ticket to a Far South Side woman in March.
Twenty-three people won tickets of $1 million or more, including an Oak Park woman who won more than $4 million at the 7-Eleven at 6440 W. Diversey Pkwy. in Montclare.
The luckiest ZIP codes in Chicago? That would be 60613, which includes parts of Lakeview and North Center, and Downtown's 60601, where the largest concentration of big-ticket winners were sold. Each area accounted from more than 8 percent of winners.
At Patnam's shop, the clerks share in their customers' joy.
“Whenever they win, I’m excited for them,” Patnam said. “It makes us happy.”
As Patnam said, you've gotta play to win.
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