Settlement Talks Ordered for Illinois Lottery Lawsuit

Wednesday November 25th 2015

The turmoil experienced by the Illinois Lottery and its players due to the state’s budget issues may be coming to an end. Late last week, Chief Judge Ruben Castillo sent both parties in a class-action lawsuit - Illinois Lottery winners and the lottery itself - to settlement talks while hearings continue to be held. Thomas Zimmerman Jr., who is representing the winners, said to Castillo that his earlier efforts to have winnings set aside in an interest-bearing account “essentially hit a brick wall”. It is hoped that settlement talks will lead to a solution benefiting both parties without the need for a court decision.

Illinois Lottery prizes worth $25,000 or more can only be paid out after authorization from the state comptroller - who cannot release the money to winners due to the ongoing budget stalemate. In October, the lottery stopped paying out prizes worth more than $600, essentially providing IOUs to big winners.

The winners who brought the lawsuit argued that Illinois Lottery tickets shouldn’t be sold while large prizes couldn’t be paid out. While the lawsuit started with just two plaintiffs, there are now 21 participants trying to claim the money owed to them. The lawsuit was amended earlier in November, asking the court to block other state lotteries from transferring lottery revenue from interstate games to Illinois. Out of the 46 state and regional lotteries named as defendants, seven has requested that the court not grant the motion.

Thomas Ioppolo, an assistant attorney general in Illinois, spoke to the court and insisted that money did not need to be set apart for lottery winners. “The money is there,” he was quoted as saying in Reuters. “The only thing that is lacking is the authority to release it and that’s what the budget impasse is all about.”

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, December 16th, which decide whether or not lottery tickets can continue to be sold in Illinois. Ticket sales of games like Mega Millions, Powerball and Illinois Lotto have dropped in the past few months as the budget battle has continued and big winners keep hearing that they will have to keep waiting for their life-changing payouts.

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