Florida Retailer cancelled, possibly for selling to online re-seller "theLotter.com"

Panhandle Package, in tiny Campbellton, is among the winningest lottery sales location in the state.

CAMPBELLTON — Just a few blocks from the Florida-Alabama state line is an unassuming store that offers liquor, snacks, novelties — and a huge number of winning Florida Lottery tickets.

Panhandle Package, at 5837 and 5839 U.S. 231 in Campbellton, operates in a town with just over 200 residents but is among the winningest lottery sales location in the state, exceeding the numbers of many stores in major metropolitan areas.

The two stores, housed in the same building with a glass divider, sold 126 winning Florida Lottery tickets worth $600 or more in fiscal 2016-17. The next closest was Rio Convenience in Jensen Beach, with 109 winning tickets.

Financially, the stores top the state as well, with Panhandle Package #1 alone coming in second statewide with total sales of $4,223,169 in the same time period. It was topped only by the State Line Gift Shop, in Bonifay, with $4,786,452 in sales. However, with Panhandle Package #2′s sales factored in, the Campbellton locations dominate with $6,610,052.

But Panhandle Package’s lottery ticket sales recently were halted by the state, leaving customers to scurry to other locations to buy tickets.

Panhandle Package cashier Josh Burdeshaw said he wasn’t sure of the reason why the sales were halted, but he’s been told they should resume in a week or two.

“My sister was working that day (sales stopped),” he said.

But Nidia Tew, a public affairs specialist for the Florida Lottery, said the shop was found in violation of its lottery contract with the state, and the “investigation is ongoing.” Tew could not comment about specifics of the violation or when the store might resume selling lotto tickets.

However, a recent $30 million winning ticket could be a clue. The ticket, cashed out for a $20,948,543.98 cash prize, was purchased by Aura Canto of Panama City, Panama, through online service The Lotter. Through The Lotter, whose motto is “Playing It Global,” players worldwide can purchase tickets from about 50 different lotteries, including the Florida Lottery. Employees of The Lotter purchase the tickets in person on the buyers’ behalf.

Lottery officials would not comment on the sale, though a representative did say internet sales are not allowed.

“The Florida Lottery does not sell tickets online,” deputy communications director Taylor Nash said. “Lottery tickets must be purchased through any of our more than 13,000 authorized retailers. We are aware of courier services, but we do not endorse them.”

In fact, the store’s proximity to Alabama — which has no lottery sales — likely is one source of its success.

“A major contributing factor to this is the high volume of purchases made by Alabama residents crossing the state line to purchase Lottery products since Alabama does not have a lottery,” said Jennifer Fulkert, Florida Lottery administrative assistant.

When Panhandle Package’s sales will resume is unclear. Nash said after a location’s sales are terminated, the retailer can re-apply, with resumption of sales decided “on a case by case basis.”

“Approval depends on ownership of the business, financial responsibility, integrity, reputation, accessibility of the business to the public and security of the premises,” Nash said.