Iowa Online 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, the Powerball was won 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, pull-tab games

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:

  • Platinum Cash: Win $300,000 from $30 with this game. You need to match your numbers to those in the game columns, along with multiplier symbols.
  • 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.
  • $1000 Loaded: This card is themed on diamonds. It is a $10 game with a $100,000 top prize and is “loaded” with $1,000 prizes. Match your numbers to the game numbers to win.
  • Frogger Level II: Based on the classic arcade game, you need to get your frog across the road to win up to $50,000. This entertaining scratch-it card costs $5.
  • 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.
  • Hedgie Hundreds: This is a simple match-three-to-win-style game. Based on a cute hedgehog, this $1 game is loaded with $100 prizes.

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.

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 and Match and 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.