Lottery players will not be able to purchase Powerball or Mega Millions tickets in Illinois after the end of this month unless the ongoing state budget impasse is resolved, lottery officials said Thursday.
“It is disappointing that 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,” acting Illinois Lottery Director Greg Smith said in a written statement. “This is why it’s so critical the General Assembly deliver a balanced budget to the governor’s desk that he can sign.”
Lottery spokesman Jason Schaumburg said Powerball would be suspended after the June 28 drawing, and Mega Millions would be suspended after the June 30 drawing if a budget deal isn’t reached.
He would not respond to questions about whether the decision to end sales of the popular interstate games was made by the Illinois Lottery or the organizations that administer the games.
A spokeswoman for the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball, declined to confirm that a decision had been made to end sales of that game.
“The Multi-State Lottery Association is focused on protecting the integrity of its games and the experience of its players,” association spokeswoman Anna Domoto said in a written statement to the Tribune. “We work closely with the Illinois Lottery, and all lotteries selling Powerball, to achieve those objectives. … Matters involving the Illinois Lottery should be directed to Illinois officials.”
Officials for Mega Millions could not be reached for comment.
It is the latest black eye for the beleaguered state lottery, which has garnered headlines in recent years for failing to pay its winners, and for the way it was run under the first private management agreement in the nation.
In a series of stories published over the past six months, the Tribune found the company tasked with running the lottery — Northstar Lottery Group — failed to award more than 40 percent of the grand prizes in its biggest instant ticket games, sometimes ending games before any top prizes were claimed.
At the time, lottery officials routinely missed warning signs of the practice even as they were seeking to terminate the contract with Northstar, a company formed by two of multinational giants in the lottery industry — International Game Technology and Scientific Games.
The company was terminated once under former Gov. Patrick Quinn, and then the termination deal was renegotiated by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Under the deal, Northstar is still serving as private manager while the state tries to find a replacement.
Thursday’s announcement was not the first time there have been problems between Illinois and the multistate games, in which lotteries across the country contribute a portion of their revenues from the games to cover the large jackpots.
In 2015, the Illinois auditor general found lottery officials violated state finance law when they prepaid $20 million to the Multi-State Lottery Association to cover the costs of future multistate games as a budget impasse loomed.
Without a budget in place, the state is not authorized to make payments to the association or Mega Millions.
Rockford Republican Sen. Dave Syverson said Thursday he was hopeful final action could be taken on a bill during the special session that would make funding transfers involving the lottery automatic and not subject to legislative approval.
A spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the state should never have been in a position to lose the popular Powerball and Mega Millions games, which offer massive jackpots and represent a significant portion of the lottery’s revenue.
“This is why the Senate passed a balanced budget, to prevent things like this from happening,” Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said. “Because it shouldn’t happen. We should have a budget.”
Tribune reporter Rick Pearson contributed.