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Lottery to again delay large payouts due to Illinois budget woes

Illinois Lottery players should prepare for a bit of deja vu — with a twist — if Illinois leaders don’t pass a budget by Friday night.

Not only will the popular Powerball and Mega Millions tickets be off the shelf, but also any big winners of any of the other draw or instant games will have to wait to collect their cash.

The Illinois Lottery announced Tuesday that, without a budget or any special legislation, it won’t be able to pay anyone winning $25,000 or more come July 1. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the state did the same thing to players for months in late 2015 — spurring lawsuits and an estimated $70 million in lost sales — before the General Assembly passed a special bill that allowed the agency to pay out the nearly 3,900 stacked-up claims.

The difference, this time, is that players won’t even get the opportunity to win big and wait for their cash in two of the most popular games. That’s because the multistate organizations that run those games — Powerball and Mega Millions — have told Illinois to stop selling tickets to those games this week if no budget deal is reached.

Players, however, will still be able to play other draw games and buy scratch-offs. For those games, any winnings of $25,000 or less will be paid out as usual, at one of the state’s five Prize Centers. Winners of $600 or less can continue to cash out at the state’s nearly 8,000 retailers, according to the lottery.

As for those winning more than $25,000, they’ll have to press their luck for lawmakers and the governor to authorize payments, with no timetable set for that. The agency notes that two special bills authorizing such payments remain stuck in committee.

If a state budget isn’t passed by Friday, the Illinois Lottery won’t be able to pay winnings of over $25,000. Also, no more Powerball and Mega Millions.

Illinois Lottery


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The Illinois Lottery began July 1, 1974 amid great excitement across the state. During its first years, it sold “passive” games via weekly drawings. First year sales topped $129 million. Sales faltered in subsequent years, after the novelty of the Lottery wore off, prompting some to call for an end to the Lottery. In 1980 the first terminal game, Pick 3, was introduced. Pick 3 breathed new life into the Lottery, tallying sales of $164 million during its first full year of operation.

Lottery profits initially went to the State’s General Revenue Fund, until legislation was passed in 1985 earmarking profits for the Common School Fund, which is still the Lottery’s major benefactor. 2006 saw the first “specialty instant games” launched; these games benefit a particular cause like Illinois Veterans, the fight against breast cancer, MS research, and assistance for people living with HIV-Aids. In 2010, the Lottery began contributing to the Capitol Projects Fund, which helps build and renovate state roads and bridges.

The Lottery has been an independent, cabinet-level department for most of its history, although it operated under the Department of Revenue (DoR) on two separate occasions. Most recently, the Lottery separated from DoR on October 15, 2011. It has a current operating budget of about $30 million a year and employs 152 people, including 80 employees who take their direction from the Lottery’s private manager, Northstar Lottery Group. With Northstar’s assistance, the Lottery launched an internet sales pilot project for Lotto and Mega Millions on March 25, 2012, when it became the first US lottery to sell tickets on the internet.

The Lottery operates under the direction of its Director, BR Lane, and is assisted by the Lottery Control Board. It operates from locations in Chicago, Springfield, Des Plaines, Rockford and Fairview Heights.

Lottery Prize Center is a lottery retailer located in Chicago, IL.

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