The Illinois Lottery will resume paying out big prizes, thanks to a partial budget just signed into law.
But that won't be enough to end a class-action lawsuit.
The jackpot's been out of reach, even for Lottery players lucky enough to win $600 or more. Illinois suspended paying larger prizes because, without a budget, it didn't have the legal authority to do so.
Now the winners' wait is coming to an end.
The Lottery director says prize claims will be processed in the order received, beginning Dec. 14. That's welcome news, says Thomas Zimmerman Jr., who represents Lottery winners impatient for their money.
"This is money that should have been paid out long ago," Zimmerman said. "It could have been deposited into their own bank accounts. They could have earned interest on it … but instead the state was withholding it wrongfully. And the state was earning the interest on it."
Zimmerman says that's why the lawsuit will continue; he's arguing the state also must now pay some $1.5 million in interest on the delayed prizes.
"This is unprecedented in the history of the Lottery. No state in the country has ever had the situation. It's an unconstitutional taking of their property," he said.
Illinois made national headlines when the budget stalemate halted awarding big lottery prizes, and in-state ticket sales slumped.