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Illinois lawmakers call for investigation into lottery

Illinois LotteryIllinois Lottery: Illinois lawmakers call for investigation into lottery
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State lawmakers from both political parties are calling for an investigation of how the Illinois Lottery managed scratch-off games in response to a report showing the lottery didn't award many of the biggest prizes in the biggest games.

"I just don't think we should promise people things we don't deliver," said state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. "And if we say we have a game that's going to pay X and it doesn't pay X, then we've lied to the people who bought the tickets."

Lang was joined by state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, and state Rep. David McSweeney, R- Barrington Hills, in calling for legislative hearings after the investigation was published Friday.

(See Investigation: Illinois Lottery didn't award 40% of scratch-off grand prizes, Lottery Post, Dec. 9, 2016.)

Illinois handed over management of its lottery in mid-2011 to a private firm, Northstar Lottery Group, and the Tribune studied the 17 biggest-prize instant games that were begun and ended in the five years since.

Reporters found most of those games did not award all of their grand prizes and some did not award any. In all, those games awarded less than 60 percent of their grand prizes — a rate lower than other states studied by the Tribune, and lower than when Illinois managed its own lottery. The Tribune also found that, because of how the games ended, the lottery often paid a lower percentage of revenue than the games were designed to pay.

One $30-a-ticket game, for example, pitched the biggest instant grand prize in Illinois history: $46 million in periodic payments. But it was pulled from store shelves before it awarded either of its two grand prizes. Its designed payout rate — nearly 78 percent of sales — ended at 61 percent of sales. Had it paid out at its designed rate, players would have won an additional $10 million, the Tribune found.

McSweeney said hearings would provide players "a full explanation of what happened."

"The bottom line: It's for the integrity of the games," he said.

The Tribune found that under Northstar the number of tickets printed for games dramatically increased, allowing the lottery to offer bigger and better prizes for games. That helped entice players to buy more instant tickets than ever. But as sales dropped in many games, Northstar pushed to end those games' ticket sales before all, or sometimes any, of the grand prizes were awarded.

Other states told the Tribune they typically print only as many tickets as they reasonably believe they can sell in a game to be able to award all the grand prizes. Neither Northstar nor the state provided the Tribune sales forecasts showing how many tickets they expected to sell for those 17 games.

Drury said he hopes hearings will better determine Northstar's intent in printing so many tickets.

"When these games were ended early, what was the motive behind that and what was the intent?" he said. "Was there any intent at the times that the games were developed to end them early? Because, if so, that is extremely problematic."

Northstar is owned by two longtime vendors who continued to do work for the lottery, International Game Technology and Scientific Games. The firms were paid more from the increased sales. But they pointed out the state made more money, too, and the firms told the Tribune that they acted only in the best interest of players and the state by replacing lower-performing games with more popular ones.

The firms said that even if all grand prizes were not awarded in games, the odds of winning were the same for each individual ticket.

Scientific Games said it welcomed any state review of its performance as a vendor and partner firm of Northstar.

"Scientific Games has served the State of Illinois for more than 40 years, generating billions of dollars for its citizens," company spokeswoman Susan Cartwright said in a written statement Monday. "Scientific Games encourages any review by the responsible public officials of state-regulated gaming operations and pledges its full cooperation with any review."

Officials from IGT could not be reached for comment.

A lottery spokesman declined to address calls for hearings but referred the Tribune to its previous statement that the agency is committed to running the games fairly and transparently.

In written statements, House GOP leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, did not call for hearings. Rather, they said they had faith in Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration, as it works to replace Northstar, to address what Durkin called "very troubling" issues raised by the Tribune.

"The integrity of the Illinois Lottery, at all times, must be maintained to the highest level," Durkin said.

Link said a thorough state investigation was "long overdue" about Northstar's tenure, considering the years of bitter arguments between the state and Northstar over Northstar missing the profit targets it pitched in its bid to win the management deal. Both the Quinn and Rauner administrations pushed to end the deal, with the Rauner administration inking a deal with Northstar to replace it as early as next year.

"My client is the state of Illinois," Link said. "I want to make sure that we're getting the money we're supposed to be getting, and those people that are playing are getting what they deserve and really do have a chance of winning."

Lang said he did not have enough information to say whether anything "nefarious" happened, but wanted to track who made the decisions, why and where the money went.

"We do need to account for when somebody buys a lottery ticket and thinks they have a shot to win $1 million, that they have a shot of winning $1 million," he said.

Chicago Tribune, Lottery Post Staff

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25 comments. Last comment 19 days ago by OldSchoolPa.
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rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
Texas
United States
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October 23, 2007
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Posted: December 13, 2016, 8:37 am - IP Logged

This is why I rarely play scratchers. You don't know if or when the top prizes have been distributed. I think most states close games before all the top prizes have been claimed.

In Texas, they are getting ready to close a $5 game that started with 14 $100,000 top prizes, and there are still 7 of those top prizes unclaimed. Did they even release all the cards with top prizes? Who knows. The game was brought out in July. That's just wrong.

CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

    Tialuvslotto's avatar - Jailin
    Texas
    United States
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    December 31, 2013
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    Posted: December 13, 2016, 9:53 am - IP Logged

    A scratch game should never be pulled until every possible prize has been paid out.  Anything less is just fraud.

    People have to be crazy to buy lottery tickets in Illinois!

    "There is no such thing as luck; only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe."

    ~Robert A. Heinlein

      Unluckyone's avatar - lib

      United States
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      August 4, 2016
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      Posted: December 13, 2016, 9:54 am - IP Logged

      This is why I rarely play scratchers. You don't know if or when the top prizes have been distributed. I think most states close games before all the top prizes have been claimed.

      In Texas, they are getting ready to close a $5 game that started with 14 $100,000 top prizes, and there are still 7 of those top prizes unclaimed. Did they even release all the cards with top prizes? Who knows. The game was brought out in July. That's just wrong.

      Your point has a lot of merit. With no accountability disclosure, anyone who plays scratch offs is at the mercy of the state that runs it. I have reviewed many top prize payouts and have seen that many scratch off games still have a large number of top prizes that haven't been won and this mind you is from games that started back in 2014.

      I personally won't waste money on scratch offs period.

        Unluckyone's avatar - lib

        United States
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        August 4, 2016
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        Posted: December 13, 2016, 9:56 am - IP Logged

        A scratch game should never be pulled until every possible prize has been paid out.  Anything less is just fraud.

        People have to be crazy to buy lottery tickets in Illinois!

        "People have to be crazy to buy lottery tickets in Illinois!"

         

        Without a doubt!

          Groppo's avatar - cat anm.gif

          United States
          Member #162631
          January 7, 2015
          537 Posts
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          Posted: December 13, 2016, 11:59 am - IP Logged

          "People have to be crazy to buy lottery tickets in Illinois!"

           

          Without a doubt!

          .

          Though I wish there were more comments up to this point, I do appreciate what I've read about
          the state(s) pulling the game, before all big prizes have been paid out.

          I can count on both of my hands how many scratch-off tickets I've ever purchased.

          • Don't chase the numbers you play.
          • Play only numbers you've already played, plus however many random picks.
          • But, ALWAYS the regular numbers you play.  This will make you a winner, not a chaser.
                    (so far, though, I've yet to win any significant lotto prize)
            brees2012's avatar - animal whale.jpg

            United States
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            March 26, 2012
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            Posted: December 13, 2016, 1:39 pm - IP Logged

            Don't buy any tickets because this company running the lottery , ripping

            off the people off ........and keeping the millions of dollars .....

            What happen to Illinois schools not receiving $$$$ ...

            More likely someone putting $$$$ in their pockets !!!!

              adulane62's avatar - file php?avatar=16228.gif
              From Denver, Rocky Mountain Empire,
              United States
              Member #49750
              February 13, 2007
              448 Posts
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              Posted: December 13, 2016, 2:32 pm - IP Logged

              Al Capone's grandson must be running the Illinois Lottery! Why you cheatin' $cumb@g$! We knew Chicago was the most corrupt city in America, now the WHOLE state might have joined in on the fun too!

              Go Broncos!  White Bounce

                Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
                Zeta Reticuli Star System
                United States
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                January 17, 2006
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                Posted: December 13, 2016, 5:53 pm - IP Logged

                Any entity not planning on paying action that they booked should not be allowed to book any action at all. 

                Bang Head

                Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

                Lep

                There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

                  itpmguru's avatar - 42a4d4d8f2a4312fb8e253dd8f6ef251
                  No Man's Land
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                  February 19, 2015
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                  Posted: December 13, 2016, 7:58 pm - IP Logged

                  "Officials from IGT could not be reached for comment.".....................................let me put on my shocked face Yawn

                  ............And after that investigation is complete up there, they need to come to NC and do the same with our instant and draw games.  I keep waiting for the day the Dept of Justice comes to investigate Alice and her Minions with orange prison jumpsuits in tow!

                    Romancandle's avatar - moon
                    Upacreek
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                    December 8, 2012
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                    Posted: December 13, 2016, 9:46 pm - IP Logged

                    "The firms said that even if all grand prizes were not awarded in games, the odds of winning were the same for each individual ticket."

                    Huh?

                    What about for the games where no grand prizes were issued?

                    The odds were ZERO chance in those cases... 

                    -RC

                      helpmewin's avatar - dandy
                      u$a
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                      Posted: December 14, 2016, 12:57 am - IP Logged

                      "Officials from IGT could not be reached for comment.".....................................let me put on my shocked face Yawn

                      ............And after that investigation is complete up there, they need to come to NC and do the same with our instant and draw games.  I keep waiting for the day the Dept of Justice comes to investigate Alice and her Minions with orange prison jumpsuits in tow!

                      I Agree!    When they done with Investigation: Illinois and NC Send them over to Indy Green laugh

                      Let it Snow Snowman

                        Avatar
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                        Posted: December 14, 2016, 2:51 am - IP Logged

                        "The firms said that even if all grand prizes were not awarded in games, the odds of winning were the same for each individual ticket."

                        Huh?

                        What about for the games where no grand prizes were issued?

                        The odds were ZERO chance in those cases... 

                        Your odds depend on the tickets that are in stores and can actually be bought, not whether or not anybody buys a ticket with a particular prize. If it's no different than your odds if you bought a ticket for last Saturday's PB. Just because nobody won the jackpot doesn't mean your ticket didn't have the usual odds of winning.

                        The potential problem here is that the tickets that were distributed to stores may not have represented the advertised odds. If nobody won a grand prize because no grand prize winning tickets were ever available in stores even though the total number of available tickets was high enough there's a problem. OTOH, if only 1 in 5 million tickets is a grand prize winner and only 250 or 500 thousand tickets ever made it to stores then that's just the luck of the draw.

                        If it turns out that there was an intent to not distribute tickets randomly or a game  that was selling  reasonably well was stopped while the state had an advantage that was significantly higher than the game odds should have given it then there's clearly problem. If a game just  turns out to be a dud with low sales then it's perfectly reasonable to pull the plug, but if the state is way ahead of the odds the extra money should be made available by some other means.

                          Lottonovice's avatar - Lottery-031.jpg
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                          Posted: December 14, 2016, 9:31 am - IP Logged

                          "The firms said that even if all grand prizes were not awarded in games, the odds of winning were the same for each individual ticket."

                          Huh?

                          What about for the games where no grand prizes were issued?

                          The odds were ZERO chance in those cases... 

                          OMG!   Exactly!   Thinking  the  same  thing.   Where is the logic in  their comment?!!!  I mean, suppose nothin' from  nothin' = nothin', so yeah,  guess =  same  odds  for all  players! Nothin'!

                                           Jester Laugh"Here's  something  to think about; how come  you  never  read a  headline  like, "Psychic  wins  lottery???" 

                                     12/2017 

                                               

                          W01/05E  78    STR8   W01/07M  90    STR8   W01/08M  33   STR8   W01/08E   81 STR8

                           

                          Disclaimer:  with a looong  track-record  of  being  one-off

                           

                           

                            cbr$'s avatar - maren
                            Cordova,Al.
                            United States
                            Member #104482
                            January 15, 2011
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                            Posted: December 14, 2016, 10:46 am - IP Logged
                            The integrity of the Illinois Lottery was already in jeopardy. From earlier in the year when they couldn't
                            pay- out for winning tickets.They pass the buck to their governor & their budget as the cause to this 
                            problem. Now, at the time this happen 3 busloads of people call us tourist to attend something in IL
                            These tourist purchased lottery tickets some didn't get paid. So, IL. little lottery problem didn't stay in
                            state people were telling other people about it before it became headlines. We want to see or hear that
                            the IL. Lottery was going to be investigated then. Who was to be accountable for this. Now, your dealing
                            with a company that is out right not want give the people what they said is prizes for your games. In one
                            game you don't pay out the top 3 grand prize. Most people because of the top 3 prize. I don't care at my
                            chances are 1 in 1.5 million the players want their shot. Not zero.