A state-run lottery ought to work that way, but maybe not. A couple that recently won the Illinois lottery found themselves receiving a notice with only one "o" in it, the middle letter of the well-known abbreviation "IOU." The representatives in Illinois' legislature have yet to pass a budget, which means the state comptroller can't write checks, and lottery prizes of more than $25,000 have to come from the state comptroller. Uh-oh.
It's not that the money isn't there. Unlike most government operations, lotteries generate their own revenue and don't pay out more than they take in. So in other words, the money is there because all of the people who bought their lottery tickets didn't do so with IOUs. State lotteries are kind of persnickety about that. So, for that matter, are just about any local, state or federal operation when they're owed money. Try sending the IRS and IOU and see just how fast the amount O'ed gets really big.
But the Illinois comptroller is prohibited by law from writing checks when there is no state budget. And because no one ever thought about this possibility, the laws establishing the lottery didn't allow for an alternative way to release the funds.You're actually better off winning a smaller prize in the Illinois Lottery these days, because if it's under $25,000, the comptroller can still write you a check. Kind of like petty cash, I guess, although I leave to you, O Frugal Reader, what kind of an operation considers $25,000 petty cash.
There is a kind of wonderful irony in this for those who, like myself, think that there are very few things government bureaucracies do well these days. One of those things, we have probably said at one time or another, is giving away money. And now it turns out that the state of Illinois isn't even good at that.