Lou Matricardi knew he had hit the jackpot when folks started crowding into his doughnut shop in Lackawanna to play a new form of legalized gambling called Quick Draw.
Twelve times an hour, 13 hours a day, the New York Lottery game posted numbers on a television monitor and customers plunked down their dollars to play.
"The atmosphere changed. We went from a serene coffee shop to a more energetic location," Matricardi recalled of his Dickie's Donuts shop on Abbott Road.
His customers were betting an average of more than $22,000 a week -- more than $1 million a year -- and Matricardi kept six cents of every dollar they wagered, nearly $70,000. And while they bet, they drank his coffee and munched his doughnuts.
"It was a windfall," he recalled.
Patricia Szary, owner of a 7-Eleven store in Orchard Park, thought she had a winner as well when more than $240,000 was bet the first year on Quick Draw in her Southwestern Boulevard location.
"My customers loved it," she said.
The stores were making money; the state was making money; everybody's happy, right?
The problem was that neither the doughnut shop nor convenience store contained the required 2,500 square feet of space, and the games were yanked after lottery officials came back to measure the shops.
Nobody seemed concerned about details like that when lottery officials rushed to launch the game in September 1995. Both Matricardi and Mrs. Szary said lottery officials approached them about adding the game.
"We were under time constraints to get the games up and running," said lottery spokesman Steve Dolan.
"We processed a lot of applications very quickly and had to rely on the information we were provided. Then we started to go through the applications to verify the information. It was unfortunate and perhaps not a very good way to treat businesses, but we were under pressure."
About 400 of the more than 3,000 Quick Draw locations have lost their licenses for not meeting the minimum size and other requirements and the review process is continuing, Dolan said.
Mrs. Szary submitted a copy of an architect's sketch on file in Orchard Park Town Hall that showed her store had more than 2,500 square feet, but a subsequent measurement showed came up 10 or 12 square feet short.
The doughnut shop was found to be about 130 square feet short after an error was made in the original measurement, Matricardi said.
Both have unsuccessfully appealed the decision, and Mrs. Szary submitted a petition signed by 600 customers calling for Quick Draw's return.
Matricardi said that when his shop became a Quick Draw parlor, he lost some of his regular customers. He has yet to get them all back so he's probably worse off than before Quick Draw.
The State Legislature mandated the 2,500-square-foot requirement when it approved the new game, but lottery officials could not provide a reason other than the obvious: that lawmakers wanted to keep the game out of small locations.