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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 Lotto

Lotto is a draw game exclusive to IL with a multimillion-dollar jackpot that starts at $2 million and keeps rolling until someone wins it!

With drawings three times a week, there are plenty of chances to win. Draws take place every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 9:22 PM CST. Check the Lotto winning numbers page to view the results soon after the draw.

Playing Lotto is easy. Choose six lucky numbers from 1 through 52, or let Quick Pick randomly select your numbers. Each play costs $1.

Add the Extra Shot option to your Lotto play and get six extra chances to win non-jackpot prizes! Extra Shot costs an additional $1 per game. You’ll receive a random computer-generated Extra Shot number between 1 and 25 that will be printed on your ticket.

The Extra Shot number applies to all lines or panels you play on your ticket. The Extra Shot number is drawn separately from Lotto winning numbers, and if you match it, you can win up to a 25 times bigger non-jackpot prize.

Would you like to play your favorite numbers for multiple draws? You can play your numbers up to 25 draws in advance – just check the box on your play slip and speak to the retailer about how many future draws you’d like.

How to Win

During a Lotto drawing, six winning numbers are randomly selected. You win a prize if you match two or more of your numbers to the winning numbers drawn. Prizes range from $1 up to the jackpot of $2 million or more.

If you added Extra Shot, you can win if you match only the Extra Shot number. Matching Extra Shot also multiples any prize you win that is lower than the jackpot.

If there is no jackpot winner, the pari-mutuel top prize will roll over to the following draw, and it will continue to increase until a winner matches all six numbers. This can lead to some very big jackpots and makes Lotto very popular with Illinois lottery players.

Prizes and Odds of Winning

Check the table below to find the prize amounts you could win if your numbers match the winning numbers, plus the odds of winning. If you added Extra Shot (E), you’ve got six more chances to win non-jackpot prizes.

How to Play the Illinois Lotto, including a draw schedule, how many numbers to pick and the effect of Extra Shot. ]]>