The Illinois Lottery would have to provide players with daily updates on how many top prizes remain in scratch-off games — and wouldn't be able to keep selling tickets for those games indefinitely — under a proposed change in state law.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Steve Stadelman in response to an investigation that found that the lottery was continuing to sell instant games, in some cases for weeks or months, after all top prizes had been claimed, with little warning to players.
"The article really motivated me to take a look at the lottery's policies and procedures," said Stadelman, a Rockford Democrat and Senate Gaming Committee chairman. "At the very least, what the lottery has been doing is horrible optics. It doesn't inspire trust among players, and if the optics aren't good, that doesn't help the lottery in its long-term goals of having a game that people enjoy and ultimately raising money for the state."
The investigation found that from November to March, players purchased more than 3 million tickets — costing them more than $20 million combined — for games that no longer had a top prize available. At one point, that was the case for nearly 1 out of every 6 games on sale.
The April report also found that while the lottery has long provided an online list of remaining prizes, it's only updated once every week, and sometimes every two weeks. There is no requirement that this list be posted in stores where tickets are sold.
And while the fine print on the backs of tickets states that the lottery may continue to sell games after all top prizes have been claimed, there is little opportunity for players to learn that information prior to buying tickets, which range from $1 apiece to as much as $30.
The lottery defended the practice, pointing out that the games without top prizes still had other prizes available to win.
But for Stadelman, that wasn't good enough.
"The bottom line is transparency," he said. "The lottery needs to be as transparent as possible so people believe there is integrity in the game, because if there's no trust, that's going to hurt their their ability to sell tickets."
Stadelman's bill would require the lottery to provide daily online updates of the number of prizes left for each active instant game. The proposal would also require the lottery to post its policy and to end a game within 45 days of the last top prize being claimed.
The lawmaker said he met with officials from the lottery and its new private manager, Camelot Illinois, before crafting the bill.
"Much of what we've drafted reflects the conversations we had," he said. "I think they realized the problem as well."
Lottery spokesman Jason Schaumburg said the lottery "did not help create the language in Sen. Stadelman's bill," and said the agency had no position on it.
A Camelot spokeswoman said the proposed measure aligns with the company's views on instant game policy.
"We've conducted research and prepared a recommendation to the lottery that includes adopting a new policy that begins closure of instant games once the last top-tier prize has been claimed," spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said. "Once a new policy has been established, we plan to post it on the website. We are also working on updating the instant game prize report online every business day."
She added that the revamped website will automatically update the status of remaining prizes, almost in real time.
The bill was introduced last week and passed unanimously out of the Senate State Government Committee before the General Assembly adjourned for the summer. Stadelman said he'll be watching to see what steps the lottery takes over the summer to address how players are informed of available prizes and how games are ended.
"If there need to be further improvements (to the bill), I'm willing to look at it," he said. "I want to hold people's feet to the fire with this legislation."
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