MI lottery goes on despite stay-at-home mandate

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The lottery in Michigan is big business, bringing in $3.58 billion in revenue for the state.

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued her order closing non-essential business, the lottery claim centers closed their doors.

But in-person lottery sales at grocery, convenience stores and elsewhere are still allowed.

That concerns Theresa Prelesnik, a cashier at a Muskegon-area convenience store and deli where she was selling lottery tickets until she told her boss she couldn’t keep taking the risks.

“They hand me money with their gloves on, they’re protected, I’m not,” Prelesnik said Monday.

And since lottery sales are cash only, it is impossible to avoid contact or stay the suggested six feet away.

“We do have some people who will reach inside of their shirts and pull money out from under their bras. Very, very disgusting,” Prelesnik said.

She says while most lottery players are good folks, some are not following the rules.

 “I actually have some people that will come through and dig through the garbage and pull out lottery tickets to turn them in to see if they’re winners or not,” Prelesnik said.

News 8 reached out multiple times Monday to Gov. Whitmer’s office and lottery officials. Michigan lottery spokesperson Jeff Holyfield finally responded via e-mail — the only way he would respond.

The email says the lottery is encouraging social distancing and staying home.

“The Lottery urges players to follow the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order and only visit a store to buy food, fuel or other necessary items. The retail locations permitted to be open to the public under the order may sell all of their products, including Lottery tickets to their customers. “

But Prelesnik says lottery buyers are not there for food and fuel.

“About 90% are getting strictly lottery when they’re buying lottery, nothing else,” Prelesnik said.

She said she believes quality customers will appreciate the fact that stores are being especially careful and will support small businesses even more.

“I just think the ones that are strictly coming out for lottery and ignoring the governor’s stay-at-home rules, I just wish it would stop, I wish they would be a little more considerate,” Prelesnik said. “I’m just trying to get people to think and I wish the governor would shut down those sales just to get a little more people staying home.”

At the time this story was published, Gov. Whitmer’s office had not respond to News 8’s requests for a statement.

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