Iowa Lottery

playia iowa lottery

The regulation and setup of the Iowa state lottery followed the same pattern as in many states. 

Regulation started in 1985, with the first games beginning that year. Iowa is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which gives residents access to Powerball, Mega Millions and other nationwide lotto games. 

In 2012, for instance, someone won the Powerball in Iowa. Twenty cereal factory workers won the massive $241 million prize.

You’ll find everything you need to get the most from the Iowa Lottery below. We cover its history, along with the various games. Then we explore responsible gaming, awards for good causes and alternative ways to gamble in Iowa.

Iowa-only lottery draws

While big-money draws in the Iowa Lottery are multi-state, others only cover Iowa. The most frequent of these are the pick games, one with three numbers and the other with four:

  • Pick 3: This flexible game has two draws each day. You pick three numbers from zero to nine with stakes of between 50 cents and $5. You can choose straight (right order), box (any order), both of these choices or front/back pairs. The top prize is $3,000.
  • Pick 4: With four draws each day, this game works similarly to the Pick 3, only with four numbers. This extra number increases the prizes, with a $30,000 top prize available (based on exact order and the top $5 stake). Additional numbers give you more combinations of box outcomes.
  • InstaPlay: These are referred to as scratchless scratch-it cards by the Iowa Lottery. They are available at any time from lottery terminals. You match the symbols to your numbers on the ticket, winning prizes (which include progressive jackpots) instantly.

Multi-state draws in the Iowa Lottery

You can access tickets for some of the biggest draws around the country from lottery terminals in Iowa. These include Powerball, Mega Millions, Lucky for Life and Lotto America.

  • Powerball: With jackpots regularly in the $20 million+ range, this is the biggest multi-state draw around. Several times a year, the nation goes crazy as the prize pool reaches $100 million or more. The format is simple: You choose five regular numbers up to 69, then a Powerball number up to 26. Tickets start at $2.
  • Mega Millions: This is the other prize game with a life-changing, progressive jackpot. Draws are held twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays. To play, you pick five numbers up to 70, and 1 from 25, with an optional $1 “megaplier” option on top of the $2 ticket price.
  • Lucky for Life: This game has a different way of awarding prizes. Instead of a single jackpot-sized lump sum, you’ll get $1,000 a day for life. The draws take place on Mondays and Thursdays with a $2 ticket price. You pick five out of 48 regular numbers, then one of 18 numbers for your lucky ball to win.
  • Lotto America: This game has a smaller jackpot than the mega-draws above, though a lower $1 ticket price. There is an optional “all-star bonus” option, which can boost your (non-jackpot) prizes. You need to pick five out of 52 numbers, plus one of 10 for the “Star Ball” to win.

Iowa Lottery scratch-it cards

There are around 60 various scratch-it card games running at any one time through the Iowa Lottery. 

These range in denomination from $30 to just $1. You can expect entertaining themes, with plenty of play-on-word puns in the titles. Below is a selection of the current games:

  • Aces High: This $20 card has a top prize of $250,000. You’ll need to match your winning cards to the game cards, with an instant $50 just for hitting the black and green aces.
  • Honey Money: Win up to $30,000 in this bee-themed game. You get 18 numbers and need to match these in rows in the hive. Honey Money is $3 per game.
  • Pink Ice: Diamonds are a key part of this game, and they are bright pink. You match your own two numbers to the winning numbers to win up to $15,000. It is $2 per card.

Pull-tab games

Pull tab games also come in a range of denominations. These are available from vending machines in bars and restaurants, as well as at retail lottery outlets. There are lots to choose from, with quirky and colorful themes. Denominations range from 25 cents to $5.

  • Karat Cakes: For $5, you can get a chance at a $2,000 jackpot. Just match three consecutive symbols vertically or diagonally across the card.
  • Platinum 777: Win up to $100 from $1 with this game. You need to match the colors of the 7s in diagonal or vertical lines to win the prizes.
  • Wild Bars & Bells: Keeping with the pull-tab three symbols in a row of three diagonally or vertically, this $0.25 game’s top prize is $25.

LotteryPlus app

While state law does not allow for online lottery ticket sales, the Iowa Lottery still has a mobile application that players should find useful. With it, you can do all of the following and more:

  • Check your tickets to see if you’ve won.
  • Verify drawing results.
  • Enroll in the Iowa Lottery VIP Club and keep track of your membership benefits.
  • Prepare “ePlayslips” for lottery games ahead of time.

The app is available for both Android and Apple devices. Just search for “Iowa LotteryPlus” or visit the Iowa Lottery website on your device.

You won! Now what? How to claim your prize

The procedure for claiming prizes depends on what type of game you played and the amount of your winnings. The simplest redemption path is for prizes of $600 or less on an instant draw or scratch-off game.

You can claim those prizes at any lottery retailer, subject to their access to funds. If you win a prize of $600 or less playing a pull-tab game, however, you must redeem it at the same location where you bought the ticket.

For all those games, you have 90 days to claim your prize. Just sign the back of your ticket and head to the appropriate retailer within that time frame. If you’ve won a prize of at least $601 but no more than $249,999 playing any IA or multi-state lottery game, the procedure is different.

For these prizes, you have a couple of options. You can claim your prize via mail, for starters. You will need to fill out and sign the back of your ticket. Then, put it in an envelope with a completed Winner Claim Form, a completed W-9 form, and photocopies of both your valid government-issued photo ID and proof of your full Social Security number, such as your Social Security card or a W2 from an employer.

Make a copy of the winning ticket but send the original. Then, using registered mail, send the package to:

  • Iowa Lottery
  • 13001 University Ave.
  • Clive, IA  50325-8225

Your other option is to claim your prize in person at one of the four claim centers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, none of the centers accept walk-in customers; you must make an appointment. To do so, you must call the center of your choice. Those locations and phone numbers are:

  • Cedar Rapids: 319-395-9313
  • Clive: 515-725-7900
  • Mason City: 641-424-6011
  • Storm Lake: 712-732-6662

Be aware that because of the pandemic, wait times for appointments may be longer than usual. Also, the lottery requires each person to wear a face mask properly while on-site. Finally, only one person will be allowed at the office at a time. If you’re claiming the prize for a group or prefer to have a representative claim the prize for you, let the phone attendant know when you make your appointment.

You need to bring the following items with you when you claim your prize:

  • Original, signed ticket
  • Completed winner claim form
  • Valid, government-issued photo ID
  • Proof of your Social Security number

So, what if you win a prize of $250,000 or more? In this instance, the first thing you should note is that Iowa law does not allow you to remain anonymous when you claim such a big prizes. That’s because, with tax dollars on the line, the need for transparency is legitimate.

However, you can claim the prize in the name of a trust you create specifically for this purpose. If you think you even might do this, do not sign the ticket right away. Once you’ve signed your name to that ticket, you forfeit this option to protect your personal identity. Hire a financial advisor and a lawyer to help you set up and run the trust, then go ahead with claiming the prize once you’re ready to do so.

You have up to a year to claim prizes of this size, so there’s no rush. After you have your ducks in a row, call the Clive office and inform them of your win. You must contact the Clive office only in this case. The lottery will give you further instructions from there.

What if my group pool wins the lottery?

If you’ve pooled your resources together with co-workers or friends and it paid off, there is a clear procedure for redeeming that prize. First off, you should note that you can set up a trust for a group of people just as easily as you can for an individual. You can them claim the prize in the name of that trust, protecting the individual identities of everyone in the group.

A financial advisor and lawyer can make that process easy. This is an extension of the “good fences make good neighbors” policy. When someone outside of the group is handling all the matters and all group members can easily verify the process, it keeps everyone happy.

For tax purposes, you will need a Form 5754. That form advises the lottery of the relevant information of everyone in the group, so the tax withholding is appropriately allocated to each person. Do not sign the back of the winning ticket until you have consulted with the lottery along with preferably financial and legal professionals.

Only one person can go to the lottery claim center to actually claim the prize. Furthermore, this is another reason why it’s smart to set up a trust and have counsel. Everything is transparent, the terms have already been agreed to and good relationships can continue.

Customer support

Like any other company that sells a good or service, there will be times when it’s necessary to contact the Iowa Lottery. The lottery welcomes your feedback and/or inquiry.

The easiest way to contact the lottery is using the online Contact Form. If you prefer, however, you may call 515-725-7900 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CST Mondays-Fridays as well. If you want to check on winning numbers, you can use the automated system available at 515-323-4633.

How to recognize a lottery scam

The primary thing to remember is that all lottery games are games of pure chance, with odds predicated on your playing. There is absolutely nothing you can do to improve your odds of winning other than playing more frequently.

Even with frequent purchases, however, you will lose much more often than you win. That’s how the lottery makes money. If a company or person tries to sell you a spot in a “guaranteed win” pool or a scheme to improve your odds of winning, they’re trying to scam you.

Additionally, the lottery will never contact you to inform you that you won a prize. It’s on you as the player to check the results of your play and contact the lottery. Other things to keep in mind when you play include:

  • While it does withhold taxes, the Iowa Lottery does not charge any fees to claim a prize.
  • The lottery will never try to sell you tickets over the phone or online in IA. That’s illegal in Iowa.
  • The lottery will never ask for your financial details over the phone or online.
  • Never agree to help a person you don’t know claim a lottery prize

If you encounter a situation you believe is a scam, inform the Iowa Lottery by emailing them at [email protected] or calling 515-725-7900.

Good causes supported by the Iowa Lottery

At the time of writing, the Iowa Lottery has raised $1.9 billion for good purposes. 

The money is split between the general fund, treatment for problem gamblers, the Iowa Veterans Trust fund and the CLEAN fund.

The biggest allocation, by far, is for the general fund, which involves funding programs that “benefit all Iowans.” Areas include education, natural resources, health, family services and public safety. Allocation of the funds into areas is under the jurisdiction of the governor and state legislature.

Iowa has a long-term economic development program known as the “Iowa Plan,” which also receives lottery funds. 

The money contributes to getting people back to work, as well as community programs and agriculture research. An environmental fund, known as the Committing the Lottery to Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources (CLEAN) fund, works with this program to fund environmental and cultural causes.

History of the Iowa Lottery

In 1985, the state codes were amended to create the Iowa Lottery Authority. This government body was tasked with setting up a state lottery, with a remit to raise money for good causes. 

The beneficiaries have a broader scope than in many states, where education is the focus. It includes a veterans’ fund, an economic development program, repair of schools and treatment for people with gambling problems.

State codes require players to be 21 years or older to play lottery games in Iowa. Most states require players to be at least 18.

The first games were scratch-it cards. Called Scratch, Match & Win, these proved to be an instant hit, selling $6.4 million-worth in the first week. 

These were quickly joined by Pick 3 and Pick 4 games. Instead of drawing these, the numbers from Indiana’s games were used up until 2014, when Iowa started its draws.

Also, there are pull-tab games, instant win games available through lottery terminals, and a long list of scratch-it cards of various denominations.

Multi-state games came to Iowa in 1992. Iowa joined the Multi-State Lottery Association in 1988. 

It would be four more years before the first draw in the form of the Powerball; the Mega Millions joined in 1999. 

Iowa would see the biggest win to date in 2012: $241 million on the Powerball. A group of workers at the Quaker Oats plant in Cedar Rapids won this massive jackpot, which was presumably left the factory looking for new staff the following week.

While the gambling laws in Iowa changed again in 2019 to allow sports betting, the lottery was not affected by these changes. 

You can’t buy tickets for the lottery online. The Iowa Lottery does have a detailed website, though, which lays out the rules of each game, the numbers that were drawn, and gives instructions on how to claim any big wins. The Iowa Lottery also offers an app.

Wrapping up: How does the lottery in Iowa compare?

Iowa has a successful lottery, which has an extensive range of games. The biggest draws are the multi-state games, like Powerball and Mega Millions. Unusually, Iowa does not have a midsized draw for only its residents. There are in-state draws, with the Pick 3 and Pick 4 games drawn twice every day. Pull tabs, scratch-it cards and instant-play games are also available.

For the population, the Iowa Lottery has raised a lot of money for good causes over the years. Almost $2 billion has been split between benefiting residents through a variety of educational and environmental programs.

Iowa Lottery FAQ

Is the IA lottery safe?

Yes. The IA lottery is a corporation closely regulated by the state government. For decades, players have played its games and claimed prizes as the public odds show without serious incident. When you play an IA lottery game, you can be confident that while you may not win, you are not the victim of a scam.

What are my chances of winning the lottery?

To a great extent, that depends on what specific game you’re playing and which prize you’re after. The bigger the prize, the longer your odds are. For example, when playing the multistate lottery game Mega Millions, your odds of matching all five numbers plus the Mega Ball to win the jackpot are more than 1 in 302 million. However, your odds of winning a $2 prize and thus breaking even are 1 in 37. Each game will have the odds for each prize printed on the ticket or you can check on the odds for the specific game you want to play online as well.

What happens to unclaimed prize money?

The lottery does have deadlines for claiming prizes. That’s why it’s crucial to check the results of the drawings you bought tickets for as soon as possible after the drawings take place. Pick 3 and Pick 4 ticket prizes are no longer eligible to be claimed after 90 days have elapsed. For Lotto America, Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, and Powerball, you have a year. The lottery maintains a database of unclaimed prizes that have not expired. Once the deadlines pass, the prize money goes into the revenue share that the lottery disperses to the state.

How do I find a lottery retailer near me?

Most convenience and grocery stores sell lottery tickets in some form. You may also find lottery tickets for sale at places like laundromats, tobacco shops, and pharmacies. If you’re looking for a location that is absolutely the closest to your residence or place of employment, you can use the IA lottery locator.

Should I sign my winning lotto ticket?

Eventually, you’ll have to if you intend to claim your prize. However, if you’ve won a large prize, we’re talking millions of dollars, you should hold off until you’ve consulted with an attorney and financial advisor. IA law does not allow you to claim such prizes anonymously but you can claim these prizes in the name of a trust to give your personal identity some protection. If you sign your name to the back of the ticket before you set up a trust, you forfeit that option. Another thing to remember is that if a group of people goes in on a pool and one of the tickets is a winner, only one person can sign that winning ticket.