Illinois Lottery Paying IOUs to Winners Over $600

Journalist:
October 19, 2015

Some are fond of the phrase, “gambling is a tax on people who are bad at math.”

While it’s true that the house makes a profit, and therefore “always wins,” the fact is that now and then someone has to win or else people won’t play anymore. There are many ways to gamble, from scratch-off and lottery tickets to slot machines and skill-based games like poker, as well as betting on sports events. The latter games aren’t legal everywhere, with the local governments preferring to have an exclusive monopoly over gambling.

Although Illinois has some legal casinos, they are dwarfed in comparison to its authorized lottery agents. The state has been suffering an ongoing “budget crisis,” their Republican governor struggling to agree with an overwhelmingly liberal legislature on fiscal policy. The gridlock has reached new heights, with state employees suffering and now, you guessed it, the state offering IOUs in lieu of winnings to lucky lotto players.

You read that right: rather than paying some winners, the state is now handing out promises to pay later. This might come as a surprise to many, who correctly believe that lotteries and scratch-off games bring in far more than they pay out by design. This would make it seem that paying winners should be easy. Previously, the state had told winners that payouts would be capped at $25,000.

The policy has long been that for winnings over $600, citizens would need to visit a state lottery center, rather than expecting the ticket agent to pay the prize. But now the state says it has exhausted its ability to pay these tickets, and players will have to rely on their local agents to pay them up to $600. Winners over that amount can still visit the lottery agency and make their claim, but they will not be getting their winnings right away. According to Examiner.com, two winners from July have rightly filed a class-action lawsuit against the state in response. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising to discover a rigged gaming machine at a horse track, or antics in the stables, even, but the state just outright deciding not to pay you? That’s just unacceptable.

The state says that it has the money to pay the winners, but legally can’t, in a bit of Kafkaesque black humor. Currently, they claim, there is no one with the legal authority to move the funds around. “Payment delays will occur because there currently is no legal authority for the Illinois Comptroller or the Illinois Lottery to issue checks. Please note that the funding to pay winners exists, but the legal authority to issue checks does not,” they have said in a statement.

Bitcoin in Gambling

Gambling has been one of the earliest uses of Bitcoin. “Provably fair” SatoshiDice made a millionaire out of Erik Voorhees, and plenty of other venues exist for Bitcoin gambling. Others like PrimeDice have gradually built a reputation and user-base, and within the last six months cut off US gamers due to regulation.

For every old-world type of gambling, there is a digital, cryptocurrency version, including scratch tickets. These games may not be “legal” everywhere, but in many cases they are much fairer to the user. Not to mention the all-important fact: determining whether or not the house can pay you in the event that you win is easier with Bitcoin. A public winnings address can simply be published.

States have not taken kindly to Bitcoin gambling, however. Earlier this year, Brian Micon of Seals with Clubs was driven out of Nevada, his house having been raided and his computer equipment seized. Many Bitcoin gambling sites will not let you play if you live in a jurisdiction that has stringent laws about it.

But games like dice and poker, done right with Bitcoin, give the user a much better chance at not being screwed over. There are ways to fake “provably fairness,” of course, and we can rest assured that if the scam exists, someone is utilizing it. Nevertheless, knowing after each spin or roll that you can verify the randomness or the way the cards were dealt, well, that’s more assurance than you get anywhere, including regulated casinos in Las Vegas.

Will the future of gambling parlors be computer labs where people go to communicate with global gambling servers?

Images from Shutterstock.

Last modified (UTC): October 20, 2015 18:58

P. H. Madore @bitillionaire

P. H. Madore has written for CCN since 2014. Please send breaking news tips or requests for investigation to bitillionaire+phm@gmail.com. He lives in Maine, USA. A single father of four young children, he does not discourage financial donations, provided they do not come with strings attached.