Tom Vilsack woke up a rich man Monday.
He went to bed even richer.
Vilsack, a former Iowa governor who also served in the Obama administration as its secretary of agriculture for eight years, claimed a $150,000 Powerball prize from the Iowa Lottery this week.
It was a pile of money he almost didn’t see.
Former Iowa Governor Powerball win: ‘Look at this’
Vilsack told lottery officials when turning in his winning ticket that he had the cash-cow piece of paper for 10 days before cashing it. It had almost become an afterthought following his purchase once the jackpot reached roughly $347 million on Jan. 22.
At the register Vilsack allowed the cashier to talk him into an extra, prize-multiplying Power Play option. It payed off.
After remembering to pull the ticket out of his briefcase earlier this week, the former governor checked his numbers on the lottery website. He matched four of the five white balls and the Powerball.
“I said, ‘Geez, honey, actually I won $150,000,’” Vilsack said in an Iowa Lottery media release. “She said, ‘No you didn’t!’ I said, ‘No, look at this.’ And I gave her the ticket.”
Charity, mortgage and the kids
The Des Moines Register reported Monday that Vilsack earned more than $930,000 in 2018 as the CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. That follows an annual salary of $200,000 he earned in the federal government.
With that said, the lottery money isn’t needed for day-to-day expenses — or even vacation.
Vilsack told the Iowa Lottery that he will instead donate a portion of the money to St. Boniface Catholic Church in Waukee, Iowa, and give another chunk to his children.
“And then the rest is going to go to my banker,” he said, describing a plan to pay off an outstanding mortgage.
Even before the win Vilsack never regretted buying previous, losing tickets. He believes the money goes to a good cause by “providing assistance to those who over-extend themselves, which is unfortunate and tragic.”
Iowa’s lottery revenues, in part, benefit the state’s Gambling Treatment Fund for people who develop gambling addictions. Other funds help support veterans and the families of fallen police officers and firefighters, among separate causes.
What is the state of sports gambling in Iowa?
A political and government lifer, Vilsack is no stranger to the fact “gaming has been somewhat controversial in every state.”
Despite that, Iowa bolstered its gambling industry when sports wagering went live in August 2019.
Within the first five months, bettors laid down more than $212 million, according to a recent report from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Casinos, meanwhile, paid out more than $190 million.
The nascent industry has included the unveiling, in late January, of a new Grand Falls Casino sportsbook. The $1.5 million area includes 80 big-screen televisions and a posh seating area for bettors.
Such upgrades are unsurprising for a state that right now requires players to register in-person at a casino, regardless of whether they are betting on a mobile app.
In-person registration, however, will end on Jan. 1, 2021.
It’s a current requirement that has been blamed for slowing the growth of Iowa’s sports gambling market compared to the success seen in Indiana.
While the transition from 2019 to 2020 saw a decrease in Iowa of roughly 2 percent in total handle from December to January, Indiana saw significant bumps in total and online handle. Hoosier bettors can register with ease on their iPhone or Android devices.
Also making a difference is the fact Iowa players do not yet have access to the DraftKings or FanDuel sportsbooks’ mobile apps.