Lottery winners in Illinois are being forced to accept an IOU, rather than cash, because the state has been unable to agree its budget.
Gamblers who win more than $600 (£388) will not be given their money until the state’s financial situation has improved. In July the city said that payments of more than $25,000 would be temporarily suspended, but Thursday’s announcement of the lower threshold has left winners furious.
“You know what’s funny? If we owed the state money, they’d come take it and they don’t care whether we have a roof over our head,” said Susan Rick, 48, who won $250,000 in July. “Our budget wouldn’t be a factor. You can’t say to the state, ‘Can you wait until I get my budget under control?'”
Two lottery winners last month filed a lawsuit against the lottery, demanding their money with interest.
“If I was the one selling raffle tickets and I didn’t pay, I would be sued or in jail or both,” said Rhonda Rasche, one of the winners who filed the suit, in an interview with The Chicago Tribune.
The Illinois Lottery has withheld more than $288 million in prizes since the state budget expired in June, according to the lawsuit.
As the story goes, the problem has arisen because the state of Illinois has, for five months, been unable to agree on its budget. Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois, has failed to secure approval for his “Turnaround Agenda” from the Democrat-ruled General Assembly.
It has meant that most state-funded services have been reduced. These services include programmes for subsidised child care, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and elderly people who receive home care. They have all been cut.
To the frustration of all the lottery winners over the past 5 months, no deadline has been set for the budget agreement.
“For the first time, we were finally going get a break,” Ms Rick told The Chicago Tribune. “And now the Illinois Lottery has kind of messed everything up.”
Jack Franks, a Democrat representative in Illinois, has been a stern critic of the state’s lottery system.
“Our government is committing a fraud on the taxpayers, because we’re holding ourselves out as selling a good, and we’re not — we’re not selling anything.“
“The lottery is a contract: I pay my money, and if I win, you’re obligated to pay me and you have to pay me timely. It doesn’t say if you have money or when you have money.”
But the state of Illinois said it had little choice in the matter.
“The lottery is a state agency like many others, and we’re obviously affected by the budget situation,” said Steve Rossi, Illinois Lottery spokesman. “Since the legal authority is not there for the comptroller to disburse payments, those payments are delayed.”
Lucky lottery winners were unimpressed. “Who do you think buys lottery tickets most of the time?” said Ms Rick. “Not millionaires. People who don’t have a lot of money. You’re messing with all those dreams.”
What’s going on in Illinois is heart breaking for those playing and winning the lottery and we’re sure will be detrimental to the integrity of the government. Fortunately for people of Illinois, with the existence of companies like The Lotter and Wintrillions, they are not restricted to playing their local lottery. They can take part in any lottery in the world and actually get their money if they are lottery winners.