Holiday Cash Illinois lottery
Illinois Lottery's biggest scratch-offs didn't award 40% of grand prizes, Tribune finds - Chicago Tribune It was called The Good Life and offered the biggest grand prize of any instant game the Illinois Lottery had ever produced.
Then the game ended before the lottery sold most learn more here the tickets that were printed, illinoislottery com holiday 2nd chance neither top prize awarded.
The same thing happened with another instant game, called Birthday Surprise.
Two large grand prizes offered.
Video explainer on how scratch-off games work and how some Illinois Lottery games didn't award all of their prizes.
For the biggest instant games, beginning in 2011 and ending in 2015, the lottery did not award 23 grand prizes, or more than 40 percent of those designed into the games, the Tribune found.
While lotteries across the country sometimes do not hand out all grand prizes in every game, Illinois' rate of awarding the top prizes in these games was significantly lower than any state studied by the Tribune.
The Tribune also found that, because of how the games ended, the lottery often paid a lower percentage of revenue than the games were designed to pay.
While fluctuations are common in the industry, Illinois' results were lower than found elsewhere � keeping millions of dollars from players' pockets.
And maybe they played it for six months or longer.
And then all of a sudden the game's gone with all these winners supposedly unclaimed," he said.
Illinois became the first state in the nation to turn over day-to-day management of its lottery to a private firm.
The firm, Northstar Lottery Group, took over the Illinois Lottery in July 2011.
Since then, Northstar has been criticized for failing to deliver the profits to the state it projected when it won the Illinois bid.
The state is now looking for a replacement.
International Game Technology, formerly known as GTECH, and Scientific Games, which formed Northstar, are multinational companies that have long done behind-the-scenes grunt work for state lotteries, including Illinois.
The management company has been paid based on how much profit it brought the state.
The firms have touted their work in Illinois as they pushed to expand their business and manage lotteries in other states.
IGT, which controlled Northstar, and Scientific Games did not dispute the Tribune findings that many big prizes weren't awarded, nor that those games' payout rates were lower than designed.
But they argued the findings were irrelevant or misleading, and how to deal blackjack problems may have existed could be blamed on a host of reasons, from meddling state officials to players not fully appreciating the innovative games offered.
And the firms also said that players' odds of winning were never affected, even if a grand prize was never awarded.
One of the state's most powerful lawmakers, Senate President John Cullerton, said the Tribune's findings left him "very concerned.
State lawmakers were hopeful when they turned over management of the lottery to a private company in 2011.
In their eyes, the lottery had become a moribund business.
Private hands, state officials argued, could spur new and creative games that would generate badly needed revenue for the state.
While it would continue to grow traditional draw games � in which bouncing numbered balls are randomly selected, for example � the Northstar consortium would look to supercharge sales in the popular instant game category with never-before-seen prizes in Illinois to capture the public's imagination and dramatically increase profits to the state.
The Tribune obtained thousands of pages of records and analyzed scores of data sets from Illinois and several other states to study instant tickets, the best-selling and fastest-growing revenue stream for state lotteries.
Unlike Lotto-type jackpot games, instant games are each preplanned, self-contained products.
Each game pays for its prizes from the money it raises in sales.
Lottery officials from other states say they try to print only as many tickets as they think they can sell for each game.
They know sales tend to taper off for games over time, and they say the goal is to award the final grand prize before sales tank.
While printing fewer tickets may limit how many and the size of the prizes they can advertise, those states say they would rather be conservative.
In Illinois, Northstar pushed to dramatically increase the number of tickets printed for games.
This allowed them to offer bigger and better prizes for games.
Players � enticed by bigger potential wins � bought more instant tickets than ever, the Tribune analysis found.
Players' increased appetite was lucrative for IGT and Scientific Games, who were paid a cut of sales, as well as the state, which received more profit.
But the appetite was not nearly enough to gobble up the sea of tickets printed, records show.
And as sales eventually dropped in many of the big-prize games, Northstar pushed to remove tickets from store shelves before all, or sometimes any, of the grand prizes were awarded.
The Tribune reviewed the 138 instant games begun and ended by Northstar in the last five fiscal years, through June 2016.
Those 17 big-prize games made up only one-eighth of the instant games, but they played an outsize role in Northstar's efforts to meet its ambitious sales targets, accounting for more than a third of the sales.
Jim Carter, 41, questioned why many of the large grand prizes for scratch-off games were not awarded during Northstar Lottery Group's management of the Illinois Lottery.
Below them: the scratch-off area, its coating superimposed with an image of a massive present tied in a bow.
Northstar, through its majority owner IGT, declined to tell the Tribune exactly how many tickets it expected to sell for this game or others, but it acknowledged, in general, it printed more tickets for big-prize games than it anticipated it would sell.
One reason it did so, it said, was to make sure it had enough tickets in case players really liked a game.
Other states told the Tribune another solution to such a welcome dilemma is to order more tickets and offer more prizes.
Northstar did it for one of the 17 games, but not Birthday Surprise.
Scientific Games, the minority partner in Northstar, told the Tribune it objected at the time to the large number of tickets printed to support what it called the Birthday Surprise game's "poorly designed prize structure.
Birthday Surprise hit the shelves in late 2012.
Northstar's business plan showed the game sold slightly better than traditional instant ticket games through early 2013, when it awarded its first grand prize in a made-for-TV moment.
A struggling cable installer, on his birthday, stopped into Casey's General Store in downstate Auburn and scratched off the first grand prize winner.
Within weeks, the lottery invited TV cameras to record officials handing the winner the ceremonial oversize check.
A local TV reporter wrapped up her story by showing the face of a Birthday Surprise ticket and noting: "There's actually another winning ticket just like it floating around out there.
Chicagoan Lottie Sowinski, 56, who often plays scratch-offs, said she assumed an instant game was stopped only after illinoislottery com holiday 2nd chance the tickets were sold.
So the game would be "reintroduced.
IGT and Scientific Games said, for security reasons, nobody knows exactly where a winning ticket sits among the millions of tickets printed.
But the game sold just 64 percent of its tickets.
The remaining tickets sat in a warehouse until the game ended and then were destroyed.
No winner of the second grand prize came forward.
Ten weeks later, a new Birthday Surprise entered store shelves nearly identical to the first: same number of tickets printed and same prize structure.
Only the ticket design was slightly different, with balloons and smaller presents.
Northstar released a commercial featuring the first version's only grand prize winner � the cable installer � who pitched what Northstar called the "newest edition" of the game.
He recounted https://gothailand.info/how/game-king-slot-machine-how-to-win.html lucky win and ended with a variation of the lottery's catchphrase: "Anything's possible.
Bob Kirby, of Chicago, scratches off Wheel of Fortune instant game tickets.
For the biggest-prize instant games, beginning in 2011 and ending in 2015, the Illinois Lottery did not award 23 grand prizes, or more than 40 percent of those designed into the games, the Tribune found in an investigation.
For comparable big-prize games begun and ended in Illinois in the six years before Northstar was hired, the state awarded 87.
The Tribune sought data from states with the highest sales of instant tickets.
Six states provided enough data from recent years for comparison.
Other states' lottery officials said they would be worried about how their players might react to such a statistic in their states.
The firms said it was misleading to focus on the big-prize games that were a fraction of all games offered, the rest of which awarded a greater share of grand prizes.
They said players bought tickets to win smaller prizes too.
And they said other states' data were irrelevant because those states weren't privately managed like Illinois.
In fact, IGT said, the private management deal required aggressive sales goals, and the two firms noted they sold more tickets than ever, helping the state's bottom line, while awarding more prizes than ever.
The firms said players won in other ways because they got to experience a rotation of popular games, versus being offered only the same games that they may have grown tired of playing.
The unawarded grand prizes also affected something called the prize payout percentage.
It's the percentage of revenue that's returned to players in the form of prizes.
Not every ticket sells, nor is every prize claimed.
So game designers insert prizes relatively evenly throughout a ticket print run, which helps to keep the payout rate from fluctuating too much.
That works better for games with smaller grand prizes, because there are generally more of them to spread out, which lowers fluctuations.
Under Northstar, the concept was strained for the bigger games with just a few massive grand prizes each.
Based on when those games were ended � and which grand prizes had been awarded by then � the payout rates routinely ended up lower than designed.
Based on internal design documents kept by the lottery, the game was designed to award 78 percent of its revenue � most of it in smaller prizes but anchored by two mammoth grand prizes.
It was pulled after selling less than 15 percent of the tickets printed; no grand prizes were awarded.
On an Internet bulletin board devoted to core lottery players, one poster lamented to his peers: "I don't know why they are pulling it, but � I was playing this game for months and feel they must have made a whole lot of money and paid out very little.
A sliver of that gap can be attributed to players mistakenly tossing or losing winning tickets.
In Illinois, accountants assume 1 percent of all games' sales, collectively, will be lost to the phenomenon.
Northstar and its firms say they should get bigger adjustments for unclaimed prizes and, regardless, any remaining gaps in payout illinoislottery com holiday 2nd chance are irrelevant.
That didn't change even if, weeks or months later, the lottery decided to end that game before it awarded any big prizes.
Don Lange, an associate business professor at Arizona State University, has studied lotteries and argued that players as a group had illinoislottery com holiday 2nd chance "expected value" of winning back the percentage of revenue the games were designed to produce.
When measuring the difference between the rate big-prize games were designed to pay and the rate they actually paid, Illinois' gaps were wider than other states studied by the Tribune.
That included the state with the highest rate of instant game sales per resident, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts State Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney said he wouldn't allow games with massive print runs touting big prizes if they ended early and significantly lowered payout rates.
He said it would be like a bar "watering the beer down a little bit.
That helped the state and Illinois taxpayers, but it also increased the fees collected by IGT and Scientific Games by tens of millions.
Scientific Games said it had no reason to support Northstar printing extra tickets because it had to eat the printing costs of tickets not sold.
But records show it also made more money from the Northstar-managed lottery's dramatic increase in sales.
Because of when games were ended, and payout rates being lower than designed, the excess money was counted as profit � a metric for which Northstar was judged.
IGT and Scientific Games said when games ended was unrelated to payout rates, and the sole reason for ending games was to benefit the state and players.
The Tribune found, in practice, Northstar had fallen so short of its promised profit targets for the state that any extra money kept from unawarded prizes in the games studied by the Tribune would have done little to improve Northstar's performance.
Jack Franks, D-Marengo, a longtime Northstar critic, questioned why Northstar ended games early.
In other states, where the consortium's members are merely vendors, the gaps in designed payout rates versus actual payout rates are smaller.
Northstar's years of missed profit targets led to years of fights with the state that led to a series of deals in late 2014 and 2015 to change the basic structure of the contract � paying Northstar a flat fee to manage the lottery while the state looked for a replacement.
As pressure was building to change the structure of the deals, Northstar began the final four of the 17 games studied.
The last three awarded every grand prize, and since then games have generally printed fewer tickets and are on track to award a greater share of grand prizes.
IGT said it didn't change its philosophy during its management of the lottery, but it attributed the difference in game structures to the realization that players didn't warm to its big-prize strategy, as well as the state taking greater control of the instant ticket management as the structure of the deal changed.
Scientific Games offered a different response.
It said the state gave up more control of games recently, allowing the firm to better shape how the games are designed and run.
The state declined to clarify its view of what happened or offer its opinion on the Tribune's findings.
The lottery asked the Tribune for written questions, then forwarded those questions to the firms, which responded that they acted in the best interest of the state and players.
Lottery spokesman Jason Schaumburg later how get free slots in nfs a statement to the Tribune saying the agency "believes strongly that lottery games should be run with transparency, integrity and in complete fairness to players.
The front of instant game tickets often contains splashy "shoutouts" hawking either the grand prize or the total value of all prizes.
And the lottery posts on its website a weekly list of all instant games, noting the number of total grand prizes in games and number awarded so far.
But IGT points to the fine print on the back of a ticket as proof it made no promises it didn't keep.
It notes the ticket promises only "approximate" odds of winning, not that players will actually win a specific number of prizes.
Some players questioned the lottery's practices regarding instant games.
Lottie Sowinski, who plays scratch-offs, said she assumed a game was stopped only after all the tickets were sold.
Joe Mahr is an investigative reporter.
An Ohio University graduate, Mahr worked at four newspapers in Missouri, Illinois and Ohio before joining the Tribune in 2009.
He was on one team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 and another that was a finalist in 2015.
Angie Leventis Lourgos is a general assignment reporter at the Tribune.
A 2003 graduate of the University of Illinois, Lourgos grew up in Lincolnwood and now lives in Niles with her husband and to win in video poker how two children.
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Holiday Cash Illinois lottery
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