Illinois Lottery vendors can win prize money from a pot of $200,000 if they generate ideas on how to entice customers to buy more lottery tickets.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration is hoping the move will increase revenue for the state, which has been battling a roughly $5 billion deficit. The state-run games of chance have seen flat or declining sales in recent years.
There are two sessions, one in Hillside on Nov. 12 and another in Springfield on Nov. 20, in which vendors can enter drawings for one of eight $25,000 prizes to be given to the owners of convenience stores, liquor shops, gas stations and other ticket retailers.
The money is from a pool of up to $20 million in unclaimed prize money the state can use either to promote the lottery or support school funding.
Lottery officials said they expect about 600 of the lottery's 8,000 retailers to attend each of the sessions designed to develop ideas about how to increase interest in the lottery.
The move underscores the mixed signals Blagojevich has given on gambling as a candidate and as governor. Sometimes he has blasted the state's reliance for revenue on gambling, and other times he's pushed to squeeze more revenue from it.
Gambling critics were outraged over the administration's plans to use state dollars to encourage ticket vendors to sell more.
"It's at best ill-advised and probably a real big mistake," said the Rev. Tom Grey, the Rockford-based director of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. "They're going to the agents and saying, `What do you think works best?' to push what is already looked upon as an addictive product."
Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson of Greenville called the $25,000 jackpots "unbelievable" and said Blagojevich could get ideas from lottery vendors with the use of a suggestion box.