Illinois fails to pay lottery winners as state's budget craters

The lottery is akin to the magical kingdom where dreams come true. In New York, their constant advertisements on television assure us that all you need is “a dollar and a dream.” Sure, your odds of hitting the big, top level jackpot are significantly worse than getting hit by lightning while being attacked by a shark, but hey… somebody’s got to win, right? And every week somebody does, leading to a huge weight off their minds if they were financially struggling.

Unless, of course, they happen to live in Illinois where the state has stopped paying the winners while still selling tickets every week. (Yahoo News)

Lottery winners in Illinois may have hit the jackpot – but they have not been paid.

The state recently announced that it was not paying out any winnings worth more than $600 until its budget crisis is resolved – but it’s still running TV ads promoting the lottery.

An attorney representing some of the winners, Tom Zimmerman, has said there is a staggering $288 million in winnings waiting to be paid out.

One winner, Susan Rick, told INSIDE EDITION: “We won. We finally can have a comfortable life. Suddenly you’re gonna the rug out from underneath us. We had a ticket for $250,000.”

I suppose nobody should really be all that surprised. Bruce Rauner has been in a steel cage battle with the state’s Democrat owned legislature since the day he was sworn in but they haven’t been able to find any daylight in terms of digging themselves out of their budget hole. You may recall that they already came to the shocking realization that bloated pension payments to the unions were eating them alive. And even though you can’t get blood from a stone, the state supreme court told them they were going to have to find the money someplace. That sounded good on paper, but they’re going to miss one of the payments this fall anyway. (Bloomberg)

Illinois will delay payments to its pension fund as a prolonged budget impasse causes a cash shortage, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger said.

The spending standoff between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders has extended into its fourth month with no signs of ending. Munger said her office will postpone a $560 million retirement-fund payment next month, and may make the December contribution late…

Munger said the pension systems will be paid in full by the end of the fiscal year in June. The state still is making bond payments, and retirees are receiving checks, she said.

“We prioritize the bond payments above everything else,” Munger told reporters.

So the coffers are pretty much empty, but the union pensions will be at the front of the line to get their cut of any money the state scrapes up. Small wonder that other payments are going by the wayside, but how does this apply to the lottery? I had been under the impression that lottery money was in a separate pool by itself, a sentiment which they seem to endorse themselves.

Most of it – 59 cents of each $1 in revenue – goes for prizes. Another 12 cents is reserved for commissions, bonuses and operating expenses. That leaves 29 cents available for the Common School Fund. Here it is in simple arithmetic:
$1.00 lottery ticket
– .59 for prizes
– .12 for expenses and state capital projects
= .29 for schools

So if 59 cents on the dollar is supposed to be going to pay out prizes and the prizes are based on the volume of sales, how could they not have enough money to write the checks for the winners? I’m guessing it’s because the lottery money is not, in reality, segregated in some separate account. It probably goes into the fungible pool of state money from which all payments are drawn. This isn’t much different than the mythical “Social Security Trust Fund” which Democrats love to talk about. It doesn’t exist, of course, except in the form of a stack of IOUs known as “special Treasury bills” which are only worth as much as the federal treasury which backs them.

Illinois is dealing with the harsh reality of decades of Democrat policies which have ratcheted up taxes and driven businesses out of the state, along with many of their employees. This hollow shell of the Land of Lincoln’s former glory was bound to collapse under its own weight eventually and that seems to be happening before our eyes. In the meantime, the state’s cash cow lottery may just implode. Who wants to pay for a ticket when your bookie has developed a reputation for not paying off the winners?