SPRINGFIELD — Without a state budget agreement reached by Saturday, the last Powerball drawing in Illinois will happen Wednesday night, with the last Mega Millions drawing scheduled for Friday.
Complicating things further, if someone in Illinois wins the jackpot this week, the state won’t have authority to write a check, Illinois Lottery Director Greg Smith told the Illinois House revenue committee on Wednesday.
“If there is no spending authority and the player wins a jackpot in Illinois, the money from that jackpot will be sent to Illinois, the funds will just exist just like other Lottery prize win, but no check can be written because the comptroller does not have the authority to do it,” Smith said.
Lawmakers have until Friday night to pass a budget ahead of the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Concern over the state’s fiscal condition prompted the Multi-State Lottery Association to announce earlier this month that it’s dropping Powerball in Illinois. Mega Millions is also dropping the state unless a budget agreement comes together. The Illinois Lottery said Tuesday it won’t be able to pay prizes over $25,000 without a budget by July 1, which happened in 2015 and sparked lawsuits from players who wanted their winnings.
While the money for the winnings is there, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza isn’t able to write a check without appropriations authority. In December 2015, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill to allow the state to pay out winners.
Smith testified that Powerball sales have already dropped since news broke that the state is being dropped from sales.
“The players of these games react by not playing the Lottery, when we run into suspension of products or concerns about being able to pay prizes,” he said. “Last week alone, our sales for the Powerball game dropped over 10 percent just on the news of the idea that we may be suspended. So the players are quick to respond to that.”
Smith noted retail owners are also seeing a drop in sales. In addition to not buying Lottery products, customers are also not buying other products.
State Rep. David Harris, R-Mount Prospect, called the Illinois Lottery mess “the height of political stupidity,” while trying to encourage lawmakers to come up with a bill to grant the state appropriations authority to pay winners.
“The Lottery is a golden 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. “And we have a simple answer.”