Unlucky winners: Illinois lottery halts payouts of over $600 over state budget deadlock

Feeling like you've hit the jackpot through the Illinois Lottery? Well, think again.

State officials announced Wednesday that winners who are due to receive more than $600 won't get their money until the state's ongoing budget impasse is resolved. Players who win up to $600 can still collect their winnings at local retailers.

In a statement, the Illinois Lottery said that its account for writing out checks to winners would be exhausted as of Thursday, and the agency does not have the legal authority to replenish its own funds. According to the Chicago Tribune, officials say the legislature must authorize the state comptroller to release the funds.

Despite the payment delay, lottery officials have continued selling tickets.

Last month, the Illinois comptroller's office announced that without a budget for the July 1 fiscal year, the agency didn't have the authority to write checks of more than $25,000 and payments would be delayed.

"Once a budget is passed in Springfield, all outstanding claims will be paid," according to the statement.

Two lottery winners have filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Lottery for stopping payouts of prizes above $25,000 because of the budget impasse. The lawsuit seeks to force the lottery to pay winners of more than $25,000 with 5 percent interest and asks that the lottery be barred from paying its administrative or operational costs until the winners receive their prizes. The lawsuit alleges dozens await more than $288 million in prizes.

"If I was the one selling raffle tickets and I didn't pay, I would be sued or in jail or both," Rhonda Rasche, one of the winners who filed the suit, told the Tribune in a recent interview.

Tuesday's announcement came the same day state Comptroller Leslie Munger said the budget impasse means next month's $560 million payment to Illinois' pension system will be delayed. She said retirees will still receive benefit checks as scheduled. But the impasse has led to an immediate cash shortage, altering the way her office will dole out payments to the system.

Despite the budget impasse, money is still being allocated through state laws and consent decrees at last year's rates while less revenue is coming in.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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