Here’s a telling indicator of just how bad Illinois’ financial situation is: the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries have kicked Illinois out of the games because the state legislature has been unable to agree on a balanced budget.
You read that right. The Land of Lincoln is such a financial basket case that even the big lotteries won’t have anything to do with the state. Apparently the lotteries have been talking about pulling the plug on Illinois for years, and they’ve finally decided to do it.
It’s a significant step on the lotteries’ part, because Illinois reported $99.4 million in Mega Millions sales and $208 million in Powerball sales within the 2016 budget year. And the loss of the lotteries will be an issue for Illinois from a budget standpoint, too, because 40 percent of the sales revenue goes to fund public schools — and how is the cash-strapped state going to make up the difference?
A spokesman for the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the games, said the group “is focused on protecting the integrity of its games and the experience of its players.”
What does that mean, exactly? It’s kind of weird for the lotteries, which make their money solely by selling tickets to credulous rubes who don’t know or don’t care that the odds of winning are astronomical, to be talking about the “integrity” of their games. Are they saying they’re afraid that Illinois, in its desperate search for cash, might try to tinker with the games to jury-rig the results, or seize the proceeds if the winner happens to live in Illinois, or decline to hand over the sales revenues?
It’s not entirely clear, but we do know this: You know you’re really in deep doo-doo when gamblers think you’re too tainted to deal with. Even the gamblers aren’t willing to gamble on dealing with Illinois.