Border retailers lose when Lottery sales suspended

By Greg Bishop 
Illinois News Network

If you don’t have Powerball tickets for future drawings, you’ll be missing out on your chance to win big – if you buy your tickets in Illinois.

Illinois Lottery Acting Director Greg Smith said Illinois Powerball tickets sales will be suspended at 9 p.m. Wednesday because the Multi-State Lottery Association doesn’t believe Illinois will be able to pay out on any possible winnings for future drawings without a budget.

“The money is not in question. The Lottery is a self-funding entity of the state, so it is really the authority to pay the prizes we need,” Smith said.

The Lottery said in a statement that any “Valid claims of more than $25,000 will experience a delay in payments due to the Comptroller’s inability to make payments on behalf of the Lottery without an appropriation.”

As for those with Powerball subscriptions?

“All active Powerball subscriptions will be canceled after the last draw on June 28. The Lottery will issue refunds to players for the remaining length of their subscriptions,” the statement said.

Mega Millions sales in Illinois will be suspended at 9:45 p.m. June 30, with Mega Millions subscriptions being canceled.

Bill Fleischli with the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores said just the threat of the loss hurts retailers.

“If your gas prices are out of line, or you don’t sell Lottery, [consumers] will go someplace else,” Fleischli said. “The more convenience they have, they’ll go. If they’re close to a border, they’ll go across the border. We define a border about 25 to 30 miles people will move.”

The Lottery said no other Illinois games will be suspended, but Fleischli said that doesn’t seem to impact public awareness as evidence when the state didn’t approve authority for Lottery payouts in 2015. That was eventually solved with a standalone lottery appropriation.

“The last time we lost, the border communities lost 42 percent of their lottery sales, and it took them five or six months before they ever got 90 percent of them back,” Fleischli said. “[Players] don’t understand [Lottery retailers] can still give up to $600 in our store, but they don’t understand. They think the lottery is not going to pay them, and their ticket will be no good and they’ll get into a buying habit of going someplace else.”

Smith said if the multi-state games are suspended, the path back into the games is not clear.

“One of the greatest concerns for the Powerball game and that group is lawsuits brought by players who will either be denied prize money or from other states that believe they won’t be paid in full,” Smith said. “Each of the state Lottery’s and the game groups incur legal expenses and damage to their brand that they do not wish to continue.”

State Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, said the whole thing is silly.

“This just drives me nuts, it is the height of political stupidity,” Harris said. “The lottery is a goose that lays golden eggs to the tune of about $680 to $700 million a year to our revenue, and we’re screwing around with it.”

Harris said the simple answer is to pass a separate bill by the end of the week to pay lottery and be done with it.

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