Illinois has so little money that it can’t even pay its lottery winners.
Anyone who wins, or has won, $25,000 or more this summer cannot claim the prize until the state passes a budget for the year.
Danny Chasteen, a mustachioed 56-year-old from Oglesby, Ill., is among those waiting for a payday. Chasteen won $250,000 on July 20 from a scratch-off “cool cash” ticket and over a month later still has no cool cash in hand. He and his girlfriend, Susan Rick, say they were told to wait four to six weeks for the money to arrive before being told that budget issues had put a hold on the cash.
“They assured us that they have the money in the bank and that wasn’t a problem,” Rick told The Daily Beast. “But they couldn’t release the funds until the Illinois budget situation was settled.”
“The first thing that came to my head was ‘They can’t do that,’” said Rick, who works as a residential counselor. “What does the Illinois Lottery have to do with the Illinois budget?”
In August alone, the state had nine lottery winners, one of whom won $15 million. No one who has won since July 1, when the fiscal year began, has received any winnings.
“I bought the ticket, I should get the money when it’s due to me,” Chasteen told ABC 7 Chicago. “I shouldn’t have to wait for some budget to be settled.”
The Illinois Lottery itself has tried to push back on the IOU narrative, citing legal parameters as the reason for the money blockage. The comptroller’s office, responsible for writing out the bigger checks, is not legally permitted to release funds until there is a budget, the passage of which has been all the more complicated by the recent exit of Illinois’s rockstar finance expert Donna Arduin.
“All winners will be paid in full as soon as the Lottery and the Illinois comptroller have the legislative authority to do so,” Illinois Lottery communications director Stephen Rossi told The Daily Beast. He claimed that no IOUs were issued and said the payments are just being delayed.
While the impending budget stalls, Illinois state Rep. Jack Franks has been particularly outspoken about the issue, sharing an article about the lottery situation on Facebook and writing: “It’s an embarrassment. It’s worse than an embarrassment; I think it’s a fraud.” He plans on introducing a bill next week to address the budget crisis.
The Illinois Office of Management and Budget did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast on when the budget will be finalized.
Rick, for her part, says she is just biding her time and hoping the “little kids stomping their feet” who manage the budget will get their act together.
“The lottery’s like a raffle,” she said. “You sell a ticket, you have a winner. You have to pay them. Otherwise we’re paying for something we’re not getting back. It’s fraud. Anybody else would be in jail.”