With March Madness in full swing, sitting in front of the TV and watching many of the games is a popular pastime for many around the country. The games of the men's and women's NCAA tournament run are often exciting as heck and go down to the wire with many top seeds doing what they're supposed to do by winning and others losing to lower seeds and busting brackets along the way. Millions of dollars are being wagered on the games in Vegas, in company pools, and at other betting venues around the country.
Speaking of gambling, let me get to my REAL point of this post - I titled it March Lotto Madness because that is what I have today - March Lotto MADNESS. I was fortunate to win a pretty nice amount on a scratch-off lottery ticket yesterday bought out of a machine at my local Jewel-Osco. I was pretty excited to win this prize which was over the limit that you can cash in at your local lottery retailer. In this regard, you have the option of mailing in your ticket to the Springfield, IL, main office and receiving a check in weeks, OR, you can head to a regional office scattered around the state. The closest to my home base is the office in Des Plaines which I've been lucky enough to head to several other times to collect my winnings. Last year I went there a couple of times and it usually took between 35 minutes to an hour to fill out the paperwork, turn in your ticket and have your name called to collect your tax form along with a check for the total amount. Bing Bang Boom - out the door you go with a big smile on your face and a check that can make your day.
Fast forward to 2019/March and you will soon learn why I called this post March Lotto MADNESS - I arrived at the lotto office around 10:30 a.m. figuring I'd be out of there in time for a lunch somewhere special to celebrate. Well forget about that! After signing in at the reception desk, I headed for the lotto office and nearly keeled over seeing people lined up everywhere - sitting everywhere - people just waiting and waiting and waiting. To make a very long story short - Waiting today for 6 HOURS to get my check along with hundreds of other very cranky people.
After filling out the paperwork, it literally took all day to get check in hand and run out the door - yes March Lotto MADNESS was a real thing today for me and for many other fellow Illinoisans. I stood in a long line for over 3 hours to get served at the customer window and then had to wait another 2+ hours to hear my name called to pick up the check. It was insane and I couldn't figure out what had happened from 2018 to 2019 that created this madhouse in Des Plaines at the lotto office. What was supposed to be a fun day collecting a lottery check turned into a day of anger, boredom, fatigue and utter failure on the part of the Illinois Lottery. There were many elderly people in line, people with canes and other physical difficulties - it was tough to watch them today but many had come from far away and had no choice but to tough it out.
I tried to learn from others around me what was going on that it was so poorly managed all of a sudden versus prior years and why hardly anyone was processed for hours on end. The one security guard said it has been like this for weeks now with many winners showing up and not enough staff to make things run smoothly. I can tell you from observation for hours, the few staffers they had on duty were working their proverbial asses off trying to move things along but to no avail. Anyone could see they needed help - it was difficult to watch them struggling to keep up and it was difficult to watch all the people standing for hours trying to get their checks. One of the Illinois Lottery's tag lines on TV and in other media is "The Possibilities Are Endless" - but to those of us stuck there all day - "The WAIT Is Endless" became our mantra.
After about 3 hours in line, I FINALLY made it to the customer window, it took about 3 or 4 minutes to finalize my paperwork and turn in the winning ticket - and was told I could come back in a couple of HOURS to pick up my check. I hadn't eaten all day, was starving and ran out of the hell hole known as the lottery office to grab something to eat before keeling over with hunger.
When I returned about an hour later, still no check but I did sit next to a lovely lady named Helen G. from Joliet, IL - and we struck up a great conversation about our shared experience of March Lotto Madness. She had talked her sister into driving her to this office and had promised her a nice dinner out to thank her for the ride. Never in her wildest thoughts did she figure they'd be there UNTIL the dinner hour after arriving at 11 a.m. in the morning. Like many of us there, it was just too far and inconvenient to go home and plan on coming back another day. Besides, like I learned today, the lines have been long for days and today they even had to close down the entry into the facility around 11:30 a.m. as they knew they wouldn't have been able to fulfill any more checks before they closed for the day. The hours at this facility are from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., yet within 3 hours they had to close access to the office as they were at capacity for processing checks.
OMG - MADNESS MADNESS MADNESS - I am not sure who can be contacted about this or what can be done about it - but I can tell you this, they are going to be losing a lot of players who experience a day such as this - it leaves a very bad impression on people who came there in good moods looking forward to collecting their lotto winnings and left HOURS AND HOURS later in foul moods, hungry, tired and disgusted with the entire maddening experience. A current Illinois Lottery tag line is "Get Scratchin" - the only thing I'll be Scratchin' is my desire to play their games any more!
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