About a month ago, Rhonda Rasche won $50,000 playing the lottery.
But the Illinois Lottery says it is not authorized to pay out prizes worth more than $25,000 because the state doesn’t have a spending plan. And so winners haven’t been paid out their prizes since July 1.
On Wednesday, Rasche filed a federal lawsuit demanding the state pay all of its big winners and to stop selling lotto tickets for prizes they know they can’t pay out.
WBEZ’s Melba Lara talked to Rhonda Rasche as part of Caught in the Middle, our series of stories about everyday people stuck in Illinois’ budget impasse.
RASCHE: It’s extremely frustrating. And one of my biggest frustrations is that his has not only impacted myself, but 28 other people that I’m aware of. I don’t know how many other people have been impacted since the announcement because they are still selling Lottery tickets. I think it’s aggravating that they’re still taking money in to the state, but they’re not giving the winners their money.
LARA: I want to talk about the lawsuit, but first can you take me back to the day you won the lottery? How did you find out? How did you feel?
RASCHE: I actually had a friend from West Virginia who was staying with us. He scratched a few tickets while he was here, and he actually won $2,000 on a dollar scratch-off while he was here. So before he left, he said, ‘I’m gonna transfer my luck to you,’. And we’re like, ‘…yea, yea, yea, okay’, you know — but he did, unbeknownst to me. But we did go to the gas station, I bought a couple scratch-offs — three dollars each, they were crossword — and after I bought them I threw them in my purse and forgot about them because honestly I play very randomly, and have never really won anything over $50 dollars so I never really expected to win anything. I didn’t scratch one actually ‘til the next day. So, I actually started scratching the crossword puzzle and had many, many letters and kept forming words, and I’m like, ‘wow, I have a lot of words here,’ and I looked at the legend that said 10 words would be $50,000 and it was really hard for me to believe. So, you know, I rechecked the ticket probably at least seven or eight times and I got pretty nervous because I’ve never won anything in life, and I got in touch with my fiancee and let him know. And from there I started freaking out of course because it was really exciting. It’s like, wow, this is…this is awesome.
LARA: And Rhonda, part of your frustration with this whole situation is that you had some plans for this money that included helping a friend.
RASCHE: Yes. It’s pretty emotional for me. My best friend’s mother passed away and she was like a second mom to me pretty much all my life. If I wasn’t at my house I was at their house. So my friend and her four siblings were taking care of her with home hospice. She had cancer and they were pretty much doing round-the-clock care themselves up until the very end. I really just wanted to steal my best friend away and her older sister that I’m close with also, and take them on kind of a girl trip to maybe have them wind down after all this. Thankfully I didn’t start spending the money before I had it, but it was a real let down when I found out that they were not going to be paying us.
LARA: It’s very frustrating, definitely.
RASCHE: It is. There’s so many emotions involved that people don’t know. You have no idea until this personally affects you because you know, you’re at the highest of highs when you win, to the lowest of lows when you find out that they’re not going to give you your money because of the state budget.