Hundreds of thousands of dollars in Illinois Lottery winnings have gone unpaid over the past few months, leaving many players to wonder when they’ll see their money.
Claim center closures have led to a significant backlog in unclaimed prizes. Centers initially closed in March amid COVID-19 concerns before reopening on July 1. But they closed again on July 4, confusing many winners.
John Sandor won $2,700 while playing Pick 4 at a Crystal Lake gas station in March. Sandor drove to the Illinois Lottery Claim Center in Rockford on July 6 only to see that it was closed.
“I asked why and they just wouldn’t really give me a good answer,” Sandor told CBS2. “They just said they were closed.”
Signs at the Des Plaines claim location said the center would be closed until further notice and to visit IllinoisLottery.com for more information. A statement from lottery officials cites “an overwhelming response from our players” amid extended wait times and unsafe conditions.
Illinois Lottery Acting Director Harold Mays said in the statement:
“We anticipated a high volume of players and long wait times, but in order to maintain proper social distancing in the centers, many of those players had to wait a long time outside or in their cars. We have decided to temporarily close our claim centers and reopen again soon with a process that will better control the volume and match it to the capacity of the location to minimize the risk to players.”
Four centers to reopen July 27
Illinois Lottery announced on Monday a plan to reopen four of the five claims centers next week:
- Des Plaines: 9511 Harrison St.
- Fairview Heights: 15 Executive Drive
- Springfield (the lottery headquarters): Illinois Department of Revenue, Willard Ice Building, 101 West Jefferson St.
- Rockford: 200 S. Wyman St.
Lottery players must visit the “When You Win” page of the Illinois Lottery website and click on the “Claim Center Appointments” button to set up a time and to claim their prizes. This route enables players to choose which facility they prefer.
Scheduling is now available, and players can block off 30 minutes for an appointment between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. They must wear a mask and follow social distancing protocols.
Usually, the James R. Thompson Center, at 100 W. Randolph St., in Chicago, is also an option. However, the lottery’s website states it has been closed since March 16 because of the pandemic.
The appointment system helps eliminate wait times and enhance the operation’s overall efficiency. The IL Lottery says that will be the only way to claim lottery prizes in person for the foreseeable future.
The lottery claims department processed over 1,300 claims between July 1-4.
Players hesitant to claim lottery prizes by mail
In the meantime, the lottery encourages winners to claim their prizes by mail. But during a time when Illinoisans are complaining about lost mail, the concept makes many uncomfortable.
Lakeisha Hampton, of South Holland, told CBS2 that she’s hesitant to put her original ticket in the mail given the size of her winnings.
“It was for the jackpot,” Hampton said. “It was like $250,000.”
The Illinois Lottery website asks people to sign the back of the winning ticket, make a copy of both sides and mail in the original and the claim form.
“We’ve seen our mail-in program double its throughput since April, with thousands of players choosing it over waiting for an in-person visit. Many players have gotten their prize within 3-4 weeks of their claim being received. We strongly encourage players to try it,” Mays said.
We at PlayIllinois will keep monitoring this situation as locations reopen next week.