Is This Board Game Shop a Front For a Gambling App?
Greenpoint has a new gaming store—with very few games.
Nestled into a line of boutique shops inside a repurposed warehouse on West St., Winners Corner has an airbrushed, dystopian feel. It stands in stark contrast to other local gaming stores that spill over with board games, collectible cards, and puzzles.
“I have more inventory in one folder than they have in their entire store,” exclaimed gaming buff Stergios Kostakopoulos, a 35-year-old Greenpoint resident who owns his own real estate management company, in an interview.
Kostakopoulos, the self-professed leader of his “nerd group,” perused the store’s limited stock multiple times. However, he eventually told his friends that this wasn’t the neighborhood haven they were hoping for. The employees, he alleges, were “useless” and barely knew anything about gaming.
It was in a tense conversation with the store’s manager that Kostakopoulos’s suspicions were justified. The manager, he claimed, admitted that their board games and gifts are “secondary products.”
Winners Corner, it turns out, is owned and managed by Jackpocket, an app that lets users remotely play the lottery.
This connection was lost on Kostakopoulos. The store’s website does not mention the four-year-old startup, and the only evidence of their relationship is a neighboring, closed storefront covered with Jackpocket wallpaper.
Kostakopoulos felt “betrayed.”
The opening of Winners Corner coincides with the New York State Gaming Commission’s recent March 25th approval of regulations for lottery couriers, or businesses that buy tickets for customers at a surcharge, said a spokeswoman for Jackpocket in an email.
Considered a courier, Jackpocket is currently unavailable in New York (it ran a controversial pilot program in 2015-2016), but foresees relaunching once applications for licenses are public.
A New York State gaming official corroborated Jackpocket’s explanation, stating that there will be a “licensing of courier services in the near term.”
When asked why Jackpocket wouldn’t open a store that just sold lottery tickets, the spokeswoman said, “In order to sell lottery tickets, we have to sell other items.”
It’s this conflation of gaming with gambling that has Kostakopoulos, a recent father, fuming. “There is already a gambling element to buying a pack of cards,” he explained. “My kid’s six months old. He’s gonna grow up. He’s gonna wanna buy games. And some asshole like that is going to sell them to him who’s selling lottery tickets on the side.”
The store’s focus on board games and collectible cards, which often appeal to younger customers, aligns with Jackpocket’s user base. In Texas, 80 percent of users are under the age of 45, stated the Jackpocket spokeswoman.
“This whole entire thing is the most nefarious and disgusting I think I’ve seen in a long time,” Kostakopoulos added.
Jackpocket said that like all lottery retailers, Winners Corner IDs customers who buy lottery tickets. “However, unlike the vast majority of lottery retailers that operate as convenience stores stocking alcohol and tobacco products, alongside candy, ice cream and magazines, Winners Corner carries board and card games aimed toward adult audiences,” explained the spokeswoman in an email.
She insisted that Winners Corner is “a neighborhood game store” and explained in a phone call that it’s separate from Jackpocket and “just its own business.”
Winners Corner also has seven locations across seven different states, three of which are located in New Hampshire, Texas, and Minnesota, the three states in which Jackpocket currently sells lottery tickets.
The Austin, Texas location is as sparse as the Brooklyn outpost, via pictures on Google Maps. Jackpocket argues that the bare-cupboard look of the stores is a result of their recent launch.
However, after seeing pictures of the store’s interior, an employee of a gaming store in Brooklyn was skeptical of how the store would turn a profit. “It definitely doesn’t look like they make most of their money from games,” she said in an interview.
Kostakopoulos, though, isn’t measured in his skepticism.
“This store is the worst of what we want in a neighborhood.”