Illinois Lawmakers Leave Luckiest Lottery Winners in Limbo

People who had the winning tickets for $25,000 or more get an IOU while the legislature haggles over the state budget.

The big winners of the Illinois Lottery don’t have much to celebrate, at least not yet.

Instead of receiving a big check from the lottery, the lucky few who have won more than $25,000 are getting IOUs, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Ouch. I’m sure it’s not nearly as fun to celebrate winning the lottery when you have no money to show for it.

Although the state is two months into its fiscal year, Illinois state lawmakers have yet to pass a state budget, which is preventing the state comptroller’s office from disbursing payments for lotto prizes of more than $25,000, the Tribune explains.

Smaller lottery winners are still receiving their payout. Illinois Lottery spokesman Stephen Rossi said winners of prizes of $600 or less can cash them in at the retailer where they purchased the ticket, CNN Money reports. Winners of $601 to $25,000 prizes can redeem them at lottery claim centers.

The big-time winners are in limbo. They have to settle for IOUs until the state passes a budget.

“The lottery is a state agency like many others, and we’re obviously affected by the budget situation,” Rossi said in an interview with the Tribune. “Since the legal authority is not there for the comptroller to disburse payments, those payments are delayed.”

By not offering prompt payment of big lottery winnings, Illinois is gambling with people’s trust in the lottery. Matthew Smith, a longtime lottery and gaming consultant, told the Tribune that Illinois lawmakers and state lawmakers should have worked together to find a way to pay lotto winners.

“Any other brand that would come back and say, ‘Well, we promised we would have this product, this service, and you will get it but we just can’t tell you when’ — any other brand that would do that to you, you would never use again,” said Smith, vice chairman of Shapiro+Raj. “Is it going to affect their play? I think in the short term, if the state is able to find a way to get (winners) paid and paid quickly, and kind of puts this aside as a glitch, they can probably save things.”

Although the Illinois Lottery hasn’t reported how many big winners have been put on hold by the state’s impasse on a budget, the “Anything’s Possible Press Releases” page on the lottery website lists at least two dozen prizes ranging from $50,000 to $15 million announced since July 1, when the state budget was due.

Do you play the lottery? What do you think of the situation in Illinois? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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