Win more than $600 in the Illinois Lottery? You get an IOU

Win more than $600 in the Illinois Lottery? You get an IOU

The state budget impasse is having increasingly embarrassing consequences.

The odds of winning the Powerball grand prize are 1 in 292 million.

The odds of a winning ticket in the Illinois Lottery are far better, but that doesn’t mean much if winners can’t collect their prize money. Starting Oct. 15, Illinois will no longer pay out lottery winnings worth more than $600, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. In September, the state set the IOU threshold at $25,000. For now, winners with tickets worth less than $600 can still redeem their winnings at retail locations.

Lottery winners can’t expect payment until the state passes a budget. The state has been without a budget since July 1, though many Illinoisans have claimed winning lottery tickets since then. Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger doesn’t have the authority to cut checks to the Illinois Lottery without a budget on the books.

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

So why is the state continuing to sell lottery tickets? Two winners, one with a winning ticket worth $50,000 and another winner with a ticket worth $250,000, filed a lawsuit Sept. 9 seeking to stop Illinois from selling tickets for winnings it can’t pay out.

The Wall Street Journal reported: “The lawsuit seeks to have the lottery suspend sales of tickets that might have winnings of more than $25,000, pay all big-ticket winners immediately with interest, and suspend the operating expenses of the lottery. It also seeks class-action status on behalf of the dozens of people it claims are also awaiting payments.”

Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, the state should stop selling tickets with prize values it can’t pay out. Otherwise, those who thought winning tickets were about to change their lives will continue to be left hanging.

Unfortunately for Illinoisans, lottery payments aren’t the only thing the state isn’t making good on, as the budget stalemate continues into its second month past the July 1 deadline.

The Illinois General Assembly did pass a state budget in May, but it was unbalanced to the tune of $4 billion, and the governor vetoed it. Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation that funds Illinois schools, and many other state spending items have been mandated by consent decrees or pushed piecemeal through the courts.

But Illinoisans across the state continue to suffer as many in the General Assembly refuse to do the right thing and pass a balanced budget the state can afford, instead of resorting to deficit spending. With more than $100 billion in pension debt and $6 billion in unpaid bills, more of the same won’t work. It’s time to stop the bleeding. Until then, people wanting to cash in life-changing lottery tickets, the poor and disabled, and taxpayers across the state will lose out.

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