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How British professional gambler took aim at $25.8M Lotto jackpot in Connecticut

Jon Lender, The Hartford Courant on

Published in News & Features

Lotto retailers collect a nickel on every $1 ticket, so $500,000 in ticket sales generates $25,000.

"I've never seen anything like it," Atlantic Market owner Sanjay Patel said Thursday. He said in the 14 years he's owned Atlantic, plus another decade of working in a similar store, the most he's seen any customer buy for any Lotto drawing was about $500 worth of tickets.

Patel said that Marantelli or one of a few helpers who came to Stamford with him spent two weeks or more coming to the store daily carrying cloth bags filled with cash, often $20,000 at a time. They would ask for "Quick Picks," an option in which the electronic Lotto system randomly chooses the six numbers instead of the player filling out a paper slip to select his own, which is time-consuming.

"Quick Pick" tickets come out of the lottery terminal with lightning speed. Five lines of six numbers can be printed on each ticket (making each such ticket cost $5) and it takes only about four minutes to print 500, Patel said. Marantelli or his mates would leave for a few hours while a $20,000 batch was printed, and then return to take them away, neatly stacked in the kind of rectangular plastic boxes you can buy at a CVS or Walgreens, Patel said.

Marantelli is an affable fellow with a good sense of humor, Patel said, adding: "He's very smart" and "can talk about any subject." The gambler's associates, all with accents that sounded British to Patel, also were pleasant and polite. Marantelli had left Stamford by Thursday, when Government Watch visited the store, Patel said.

But he said a couple of the gambling CEO's helpers remained in town, and had left a box containing a stack of more than 5,000 tickets they said were winners ranging from $2 (for getting three of six numbers right) to $50 (for getting four numbers right). Larger winning amounts, such as $2,000 or so for hitting five of six numbers (sometimes it varies, depending on how many other players also got five out of six) must be cashed in at either CLC headquarters in Rocky Hill or another regional redemption center.

 

Patel said it would take him a couple of hours to run the tickets through his terminal to verify they were winners, and then pay the Marantelli associate who came back to pick up the winnings.

Marantelli, the enigmatic sportsman, turned out to be quite a sport, throwing a little party for Patel and other local convenience store owners and employees on Nov. 2, the day after the big drawing, at the nearby Bobby V's Restaurant & Sports Bar, which adjoins a Winners OTB parlor, just down Atlantic Avenue from Patel's store. "Bernard is a good guy," he said.

Representatives of the CLC and DCP visited Atlantic Market during the ticket-buying binge while Marantelli or his associates were there and said it was all proper, Patel said.

According to Patel and others, the gambler and his associates were buying tickets for about two weeks prior to the winning ticket being drawn on Nov. 1. That's about four drawings' worth. Lotto drawings are televised Tuesday and Friday nights about 10:38 p.m. Ticket sales cease at 10:20 and resume at 10:46.

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