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Powerball, Mega Millions to drop Illinois due to state’s budget crisis

With a state budget approved, ticket sales for the Mega Millions and Powerball games can resume, the Illinois Lottery said Thursday. | File photo

The popular Powerball lottery and Mega Millions games will drop Illinois at the end of June without a budget agreement, Illinois Lottery officials said Thursday.

Concern over the state’s fiscal condition prompted the Multi-State Lottery Association to drop Powerball in Illinois, according to internal Illinois Lottery communications obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mega Millions also plans to drop the state unless a budget agreement comes together, state officials confirmed. Without a budget in place, the state isn’t authorized to make payments to Mega Millions or the association.

Those decisions were reached at national lottery meetings held this week, Illinois Lottery spokesman Jason Schaumburg said. Illinois belongs to the Mega Millions group, and has a license to sell Powerball.

A spokesman for the Multi-State Lottery Association said the group “is focused on protecting the integrity of its games and the experience of its players.”

Greg Smith, acting director of the Illinois Lottery, called the development “disappointing.”

“The Legislature’s inability to pass a budget has led to this development and will result in Illinois Lottery players being denied the opportunity to play these popular games,” Smith said. “This is why it’s so critical the General Assembly deliver a balanced budget to the governor’s desk that he can sign.”

Schaumburg on Thursday morning confirmed that the games will be dropped absent a state budget. He said the multi-state association has had discussions since 2015 about dropping Illinois, but this is the first time the group has taken action.

“Its unfortunate. Powerball was the only thing that I would buy, because I knew that it would pay out,” said Anthony Martinez, who lives in the Logan Square neighborhood. “With the Illinois budget crisis, it’s not a guarantee that Illinois’ going to actually pay out on your lottery winnings.”

The state reported $99.4 million in Mega Millions sales and $208 million in Powerball sales within the 2016 budget year. Schaumburg said the state retains about 40 percent of that money for education funding.

Powerball is offered in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mega Millions is offered in 44 states, along with the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Shaneen Murray, a Woodlawn resident, said taking away the temptation of some of the high-profile lottery games is “not necessarily a terrible thing.”

“Maybe people can save money, or put their money toward something better,” she said.