State lawmaker calls for investigation into Fox 32 lottery findi - FOX 32 News Chicago

State lawmaker calls for investigation into Fox 32/BGA lottery findings

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Earlier this week, Fox 32 News reported exclusively that the Illinois Lottery has been paying for contracts that went to a company that used to be owned by the lottery's chief administrator.

Now, a south suburban lawmaker is calling for a state investigation into Fox 32 and the Better Government Association's findings.

Democratic State Rep. Bob Rita of Blue Island says he was astonished by the findings detailing a series of payments to a Chicago consulting firm by the Illinois lottery totaling $168,000.

"This doesn't sound right. It doesn't read right. Nothing seems right about this and this is something we should look at a little closer," Rita said.

Illinois Lottery Director Michael Jones had previously worked for and helped found the company, called Independent Lottery Research.

Emails obtained by Fox 32 and the BGA show that shortly after Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Jones to run the Illinois Lottery, Jones tried to give his old company a contract.

Jones told us he was just trying to help an Illinois business.

"I'd say 'why don't we keep the money in Illinois? Why wouldn't we hire an Illinois company to do research on the Illinois Lottery," Jones said.

That contract was killed by the governor's office because of a perceived conflict of interest but a few weeks later, Independent Lottery Research changed its name to Independent Gaming Research, and almost immediately it began getting work from Northstar, the company hired by Illinois to run the lottery.

Jones insists he had nothing to do with it.

"Ask Northstar. Ask the CEO of Northstar. I'm sure he would know," Jones said. "I had nothing to do with it."

But a spokesman for Northstar's parent company, GTECH, told us, "the primary reason GTECH hired ILR/IGR was because of director Jones' urging."

"We got more questions than answers now," Rita said.

Rita says he will be asking to legislative audit commission to investigate how Jones' former company wound up getting the lottery business, and whether any ethics rules were broken.

"That's what I'm looking at. Why would someone push so hard to have a certain company do business," Rita said.

Those contracts went to a business with close ties to Illinois Lottery Director Michael Jones.

Now, a member of the Legislative Audit Commission is asking the state to investigate whether any laws were broken.

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