Want to hear a crazy story about Story County, Iowa?
An Iowa Lottery ticket purchased at an Ames convenience store won $1 million last September and has yet to be claimed.
It gets better. According to Lottery officials, a $1 million prize has only expired once in state history. Ironically, it was also purchased in Story County.
Will this Story repeat itself?
The Iowa Lottery’s Mega Millions winning ticket matched numbers on five of six white balls for the third-highest prize, narrowly missing the $191 million jackpot that would have come by hitting the yellow Mega Ball.
Mega Millions winners from 2022 have one year to cash in their tickets, said Iowa Lottery’s Mary Neubauer.
“We’re trying to do all we can to find that winner. … Usually, a prize this size is claimed really quickly. When it comes to a million dollars, it’s unusual that a prize of this size has been sitting out there as long as it has.
The Lottery has mentioned the unclaimed prize in several press releases. Signs are also posted inside The Filling Station where the ticket was sold.
On June 6, the store and Iowa Lottery officials will host an event to publicize the issue. The event is open to the public. Giveaways include several free play tickets to upcoming Mega Millions drawings, Neubauer said.
“We just want to do our best to have a last push to remind people about that prize. Obviously, there’s a year to claim the prize. But as more and more time passes, it just becomes that much less likely that it would occur.”
With just over three months before it expires, it’s still unknown if this Story story will have a happy ending.
Possible explanations for the missing winner
It boggles the mind to think about leaving lottery winnings on the table, let alone $1 million. Conspiracy theories aside, what could have happened?
Easy answers include losing or throwing away a ticket by accident. Somebody could have left their ticket in pants that went through the washer. Maybe the purchaser threw the ticket in the glovebox and forgot about it.
The most plausible explanation, though, is an out-of-towner bought the ticket.
The drawing occurred just after Labor Day weekend when many Americans were on the road. The Filling Station and adjacent Gateway Express offer a barbecue restaurant, gas station, and convenience store along US-30, just a few miles from its junction with I-35.
What happens if time runs out?
According to Neubauer, prizes this large must be claimed in person. Although it is unlikely, an out-of-state resident could be waiting for a planned summer trip to collect their windfall.
If the prize goes unclaimed, it will be returned to the lottery prize pool for future games or promotions. In 2018, the Iowa Lottery held a promotion immediately after the $1 million ticket expired that was won and split by a group of co-workers from Cedar Rapids.
Luckily for The Filling Station, it gets $1,000 for selling the winning ticket, whether it is claimed or not.
How to redeem Iowa Lottery tickets
The Iowa Lottery has awarded almost $2 billion throughout its 38-year history.
As of April, the Lottery shortened its redemption period on all games from 365 days to 180 days for winners to collect their earnings. Each game has different redemption rules, but prizes up to $600 can generally be redeemed at retail locations.
Larger prizes, up to $250,000, must be redeemed at an Iowa Lottery office by making a claim and submitting proof of identification. Prizes greater than $250K require a trip to the Lottery’s headquarters in Clive.