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 awarded.”
“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 grand prizes.
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.