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Illinois Lottery Prize Winners Frustrated With Claim Centers Closed, Questions About It Unanswered

DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) — What would you do if you won the Lotto?

Well first, you’d probably collect your money – but in Illinois, many players can’t even do that right now.

The CBS 2 Morning Insiders have discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid winnings from the past few months, and players tell Tim McNicholas the Illinois Lottery is not answering their questions.

“I’ve always played this number. It’s my dog’s birthday.” Said John Sandor.

Sandor said he won $2,700 playing a pick-four back in March from his local gas station in Crystal Lake.

When you win that much, you usually have to go to a claim or prize center, but those were closed due to the pandemic.

“I’d like to get my money, you know?” Sandor said.

Then, the Illinois Lottery announced it would be reopening claim centers on July 1. So Sandor drove to the Rockford location on July 6, only to be told they were already shut back down.

“I asked why and they just wouldn’t really give me a good answer,” Sandor said. “They just said they were closed.”

Other players took to Facebook to complain, with some saying they also showed up in early July but couldn’t get paid.

Nicki Misialek won $2,000 in mid-June, but when she heard about the issues, she decided it wasn’t worth the drive.

“Can they not handle the amount of people?” Misialek said.

Misialek and Sandor both say they have had a hard time getting clear answers. In 2015, Illinois gave IOU’s to some lottery winners to ease the state’s financial burdens, so Misialek started to worry.

“If they would just say were not set up because of COVID, it’s understandable,” she said. “But leaving you hanging makes you wonder about the state’s finances, COVID, any other reason possible.”

We showed up at a claims center in Des Plaines and found barricades with signs saying the lottery is not making any more claims for the day.

Another sign says the claim center is closed until further notice, and you can visit IllinoisLottery.com for more information.

The website does not give a reopening date, but it does say winners can claim their tickets by mail, at a time when people across the Chicago area are complaining their mail isn’t showing up.

“You don’t know if it’s going to get lost. You don’t know if you’re going to get it back. You don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Sandor said.

Lakeisha Hampton from South Holland said she found a huge line “wrapped all the way around the building” July 2 outside the Des Plaines location when she showed up around 8 a.m.

She said an employee turned her away, so she drove to Rockford – only to be told they were done for the day.

“It was a hot mess out here,” Hampton said. “There were elderly people standing outside in the hot sun.”

The Illinois Lottery website said you should make a copy of your ticket, but mail in the original.

But Hampton said given her winnings, she does not feel comfortable putting the original in the mail.

“It was for the jackpot,” Hampton said. “It was like $250,000.”

Illinois Lottery would not agree to an interview. But in a statement, they said the early July response was overwhelming and the long lines in the summer heat were unsafe, so they shut the centers down.

The Lottery acknowledged a better option is needed, and they plan to launch a new system where winners can set up appointments online to visit the claim centers.

On Monday afternoon the, Illinois Lottery announced that appointments will start July 27 at four of their claim centers. You can make an appointment at IllinoisLottery.com. No walk-ins are allowed.

A couple other states have set up similar systems.

A Lottery representative also recommended mailing in your claim. She said it typically takes about three to four weeks to get your prize that way.

What would you do if you won the Lotto? Well first, you’d probably collect your money – but in Illinois, many players can’t even do that right now.

Illinois Lottery Awarded Nearly $1.7 Billion In Prizes In 2019

Several of those 2019 Illinois Lottery winners were lottery players across the Chicago area.

By Rebecca Hughes , Patch Staff
Jan 16, 2020 11:50 a m CT | Updated Jan 16, 2020 11:54 a m CT

CHICAGO, IL — The Illinois Lottery paid nearly $1.7 billion in prizes to winning players in 2019, and sold more than 100 million winning tickets, the lottery announced Thursday in a news release. A $1 million prize was claimed by 48 players in 2019, according to the news release.

The lottery also reported that the largest prize won was a $15.75 million Lotto jackpot in the April 11, 2019 drawing by someone who played on the Illinois Lottery mobile app, representing one of the biggest prizes won to date on the app, according to the news release.

“The Illinois Lottery marked its 45th birthday last year, but there were plenty of other reasons to celebrate in 2019,” Illinois Lottery Acting Director Harold Mays said, in the news release. “We want to celebrate our players, our winners, our retail partners and the contributions made by the people of Illinois to education and special causes through purchasing Lottery tickets.”

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Thanks to its players an annual ticket sales of nearly $3 billion, the Illinois Lottery helped the State of Illinois win, as well, according to the news release. The Illinois Lottery contributes around 25 cents of every dollar spent on games back to the state for public schools, capital projects and other special causes, the lottery said, equaling $731 million for public schools (averaging out to $2 million a day) for public education in Fiscal Year 2019. The Illinois Lottery also paid retailers across the state $165 million in bonuses and commissions in Fiscal Year 2019, the news release said.

Illinois Lottery Awarded Nearly $1.7 Billion In Prizes In 2019 – Chicago, IL – Several of those 2019 Illinois Lottery winners were lottery players across the Chicago area.