FILE - Illinois Lottery

In this Friday, July 7, 2017 photo, a customer buys a Mega Millions ticket at a store in downtown Chicago.

(The Center Square) – Illinois schools will get less money from the Illinois Lottery this year.

Officials reported the Lottery's contribution to the Common School Fund in fiscal 2020 would be about $60 million less than its statutory obligation. 

The department estimated it will transfer $689 million to the Common School Fund, which is $57 million less than its obligation and about $42 million less than the previous year.

The Illinois Lottery said it contributed a record amount of money to school districts in fiscal year 2019, with over $731 million going to the Common School Fund. Since 1985, the lottery reports it has contributed $20 billion to the fund, which is designed to assist public schools in Illinois.

The Lottery report said the pandemic affected sales during the Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order, but sales later rebounded.

"During the first 6 weeks of the stay at home order, the Department saw depressed sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the quarterly report. "Average weekly sales were approximately $6 million less than the first 37 weeks of the year. However, average weekly sales for the last 9 weeks of the fiscal year outperformed the first 37 weeks by approximately $9 million. This late-year performance all but negated the initial depressed sales that were experienced during the first 6 weeks of the shelter-in-place order."

The report also said the pandemic could continue to affect the department.
 
"The department expects the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic to have a financial and operational impact on the department for some time," according to the report. 
 
Ben Schwarm, the deputy executive director for the Illinois Association of School Boards, said the decline in lottery revenue combined with less money from sales taxes, income taxes and other gambling taxes will affect Illinois schools.

“The fact that all those revenue streams are down, it absolutely is going to make an effect and schools will have to be prepared for that,” he said.

In 2017, the lottery announced Camelot Illinois, part of a family of companies that run national lotteries in the United Kingdom and Ireland, would replace Northstar Lottery Group. Northstar was hired in 2010 and became the first private company to manage a U.S. state lottery.

When asked if the Lottery's failure to meet its funding obligations could be attributed to the pandemic or the performance of the private manager, Camelot Illinois, Illinois Lottery Communications Director Meghan Powers declined to comment.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.