Two players of the Illinois Lottery’s scratch-off games have
asked a court to award a jackpot from the former operators of the state lottery
system, alleging Northstar Lottery Group owes them and others who played the
state’s instant games for flooding the market with tickets to greatly reduce
the odds players could win grand prizes, contrary to advertised odds, allowing
the Lottery to pocket millions of dollars more than it should have.
On March 15, plaintiffs Dennis Atteberry and Tamara Burton
filed a putative class action lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against Chicago-based
Northstar, alleging consumer fraud, negligence and other counts, on behalf of
perhaps thousands of others who played Illinois Lottery instant games, won big
prizes, but were allegedly never paid.
The lawsuit centers on an investigation reported by The
Chicago Tribune in December 2016, showing the Illinois Lottery, from July
2011-June 2015, improperly increased the number of tickets printed for
scratch-off instant games, resulting in “the payout rates in games being lower
than the games were designed, projected or advertised for, and the games being
ended prior to most of the prizes, and, in some cases, the grand prizes being
“Increasing the number of tickets printed in excess of what
was designed for the game and/or ending the game before the prizes can be
awarded decreases the advertised odds and payout rates for the players,” the plaintiffs
said in their lawsuit.
The complaint noted the Illinois Lottery had printed only
3.1 million tickets for scratch-off instant games in the six years before
Northstar began managing the system in 2010, paying out 87.5 percent of grand
prizes for those games. However, during the five years Northstar ran the system,
the Lottery printed 9.8 million tickets, and paid out only 59.6 percent of
Additionally, the complaint alleges Northstar, from
2010-2015, began and ended 138 instant scratch-off games, with 17 of its “big-prize
games” accounting for more than one-third of ticket sales. Of those 17,
however, only three games awarded all of their grand prizes. Further, the
complaint alleges, of 57 potential grand prizes, “23 were never awarded.”
In all, the complaint noted the Tribune investigation showed
Northstar did not pay out more than 40 percent of “the awards designed,
projected and advertised in the games, keeping millions of dollars from the
players’ pockets, including the award of grand prizes.”
Atteberry said he purchased “numerous and various Illinois
Lottery tickets” from 2012-2015, including for a game known as “The Good Life,”
which the Lottery ended before selling most of its tickets, and for which it
never awarded its top prize.
Burton said she “purchased numerous and various Illinois
Lottery tickets” from 2009-2017, including tickets for “The Good Life” and
another game, known as “7-11-21.”
According to the complaint, “’The Good Life’ was designed to
award 78 percent of its revenue,” but paid out only $38 million in small
prizes, out of $63 million in ticket sales.
Northstar, the complaint alleges, “increases the amount of
tickets printed and then ends the games before they sell most of the tickets
printed … thus, the pay rates are lower and Plaintiffs and the Class never have
a chance of winning the top prizes.”
The plaintiffs have asked the court to expand their lawsuit
to include potentially thousands of others who have played the Illinois Lottery’s
instant games, and to award unspecified damages, plus attorney fees.
Atteberry and Burton are represented in the action by
attorney Larry D. Drury, of Chicago.