The Illinois Lottery's private managing firm must pay a $20 million fine for falling short of promised profits. (Photo courtesy Benjamin Yount/IllinoisWatchdog)
By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois lottery, one lawmaker says, has filled the state with losers.
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, says a $20 million fine for Illinois’ private lottery manager, Northstar Lottery Group, amounts to pennies when compared to what the state gave away.
“We’re still not getting the kind of return that we could have if we would have just kept this in-house,” Franks said Monday.
Franks has been critical of the 2010 deal that allowed Northstar to take over Illinois’ lottery. Northstar promised to sell $851 million in tickets in 2012, but instead sold $757 million in tickets. The company will pay the state $20 million for falling short.
The Illinois Lottery collected more $2 billion in 2012, and the state paid Northstar more than $125 million, a statement shows.
“What the governor did was, basically, enrich a private company and gave away an asset of the citizens of the state of Illinois,” Franks said.
Officials with the Illinois Lottery, a state agency in name only, would not say how much the state would have received had Northstar sold as many tickets as promised.
Gov. Pat Quinn said Northstar “has some work to do” to make good on its promises. The goal, Quinn said, is a lottery “that reaches everyone” in Illinois.
“We need to engage more citizens,” Quinn said. “There are ideas like special games that appeal to folks who don’t normally play the lottery.”
Franks said Quinn is counting on people who often can least afford to gamble to throw a few more dollars down each week.
“Shame on the governor,” Franks said. “This is a zero-sum game. People have to lose for others to win. So we are preying on our own citizens.”
Franks would rather Illinois cancel the contract with Northstar and take over lottery operations as a function of state government.
Illinois was the first state to hand its state lottery over to a private company, but questions about the contract and vetting process soon followed the choice of Northstar.
Quinn has said he hoped a private lottery firm could expand sales and raise more money. The Illinois lottery was sold to taxpayers in the early 1980s as a way to help pay for Illinois schools.
Franks is quick to say tying the lottery to schools, and now to a private firm, is the real shame for Illinois.
“If you love kids, you’re going to drink because we tax the heck of out that for schools. You’re going to smoke, because that money goes to schools as well. And you’re going to gamble,” Franks said. “We’re teaching our kids, ‘If you really love other kids, you’re going to drink, smoke and gamble.”