State lotteries are unethical, of course, being regressive crypto-taxes on the poor, dumb and gullible installed by gutless legislators to avoid more responsible revenue sources that might cost them votes. Illinois isn’t alone among the states engaging in these shameless scams; indeed it is in the vast, vast majority. This particular slippery slope also slipped exactly as the worst doomsayers predicted, with lotteries leading inexorably to widespread casino gambling and an explosion of gambling addiction and its attendant ruination. But never mind.
Illinois is not an ethics dunce for having a state lottery, although it is. Illinois is an ethics dunce for being the only state that has a state lottery and doesn’t pay up when one of those poor, dumb, gullible citizens gets lucky and wins a bundle. The state is in the throes of a huge fiscal deficit, and because the legislature and governor have failed to agree on a 2015-16 budget for the fiscal year that started July 1, the Illinois comptroller’s office doesn’t have authority to write checks over $25,000. Lottery winners who have won that much or more when the ping-pong balls popped their way have been waiting for their giant checks. Meanwhile, the state continues to pay the salaries of those working inside the Illinois Lottery and the private company that manages it, and the lottery continues to advertise the games and sell tickets.
A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago by Rhonda Rasche, who’s awaiting a $50,000 payout, and Danny Chasteen, who won $250,000. They seeks class-action status and the halt of lottery ticket sales. The suit also aims to force the sate to pay lottery players who have won more than $25,000, with 5% interest, and asks that nobody who works for the Illinois Lottery or the private company that manages it gets paid until the winners are.
In the alternative, they could have someone break Illinois’s legs.
A bookie who behaved as Illinois is would end up on a hook somewhere. A taxpayer who made an excuse like this–“Sorry, I have the money, but I just can’t pay you!”—would be greeted, ah, unsympathetically. Meanwhile, selling lottery tickets knowing that winners won’t be paid is called fraud.
Or perhaps it’s just a test to see how dumb ticket buyers really are. Why not? If they’ll trust Illinois, they’ll trust anything.