Illinois Stops Paying Lottery Winners

Published October 13, 2015

Illinois lawmakers’ continued refusal to propose a balanced state budget is preventing the state’s lottery agency, administered by a private company through a private-public partnership, from disbursing winnings exceeding $25,000.

State law requires lottery winnings greater than $25,000 to be distributed by the state comptroller’s office. The comptroller’s office is issuing IOUs to lottery winners, which will be redeemable when lawmakers submit to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) a budget without deficit spending.

Hilary Gowins, managing editor for the Illinois Policy Institute, says lawmakers’ failure to compromise with Rauner is wreaking havoc with government services.

‘Crazy Effects’ of Impasse

“How we’ve gotten to where we can’t even pay people who have won the lottery is that instead of working with the governor, legislators have chosen to combat him,” Gowins said. “Lawmakers being unwilling to do the right thing and pass a balanced budget is having all kinds of crazy effects, and Illinoisans are the ones who are suffering.”

“Unfortunately, lottery winners are in a long line right now, with [Department of] Human Services and other spending items that have no funding,” Gowins said. “They’re going to be in line with everybody else, waiting to see how this plays out.”

Probabilities and Payouts

Kent Grote, an assistant professor of economics and business at Lake Forest College, says the state’s inability to pay out its promises will have real consequences.

“They’re going to lose lottery revenues,” Grote said. “There are already very low odds of winning the lottery in the first place. Now, on top of that, you have to add the probability that you may not get money from the State of Illinois for several months, until the state approves a budget. There will absolutely be consequences.”

Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.