Iowa has another big lotto winner, but the West Burlington man who won the $1 million Mega Millions prize thinks the windfall almost didn’t happen.
Josh Buster asked for five easy-pick plays for the April 14 Mega Millions drawing, but the clerk at the MK Mini Mart in his hometown initially printed out just one play from the Iowa Lottery terminal. The clerk asked the 40-year-old prep chef if he could print out the other four plays for him on another ticket.
Customers have the option of using their own numbers for lottery plays, but more than 90% of lotto plays — and wins — come from customers who use the easy pick option.
Buster thinks the clerk altered his fate when he had to print out a second ticket with four more random sets of numbers.
“I feel like that changed the numbers that I would have gotten if he had put them all on one instead of making that mistake,” he told Iowa Lottery officials when he claimed his Mega Millions prize on Monday, April 18.
Lottery staff handed out another big check in January when a New Hampton couple claimed a $2 million Powerball win.
Buster cashed in his Mega Millions prize on tax day
Buster’s win is a good reminder that a $1 million win doesn’t make you a millionaire. Out of every dollar he won, the federal government will take about a quarter, while the state grabs a nickel. In other words, expect to clear about 70 cents on the dollar with a big Iowa Lottery win.
- Prize amount — $1 million
- 24% federal withholding — $240,000
- 5% state withholding — $50,000
- Josh Buster’s amount — $710,000
It doesn’t sound like the tax bite dampened Buster’s spirits when he checked his numbers before work Saturday morning.
“I opened up the lottery app and scanned my tickets,” he told lottery officials. “I always keep my tickets in the console of my car. And I scanned it in the car and freaked out and ran back inside.”
Buster said that at first, he had trouble believing what he was seeing.
“I don’t usually have good luck, so I thought it was a mistake and there was going to be an error,” he said. “So I Googled the lottery numbers to make sure I had the right ones, and I did! And then the rest of the day, I’m just waiting to wake up from a dream.”
Mega Millions players pay $2 and choose their first five numbers from a pool of 70. Another number — called the Mega Ball — comes from a separate pool of 25. The Megaplier option is available for an extra $1 per play.
How to cash in a big prize
West Burlington is in southeast Iowa, so Buster made about a three-hour trip for his big check moment Monday at Iowa Lottery headquarters. The lottery’s main office is in Clive, a western suburb of Des Moines.
The amount of an Iowa Lottery win determines the trip you have to make to claim a prize. For sizable wins, call ahead so Iowa Lottery staff can offer instructions and set up an appointment.
- Wins of $250,000 or more require a visit to Clive.
- Prizes of $600 or more have to be claimed at
- Clive: 515-725-7900
- Cedar Rapids: 319-395-9313
- Mason City: 641-424-6011
- Storm Lake: 712-732-6662
- Wins under $600 can be claimed at retail locations that carry Iowa Lottery products. Just make sure the retailer has enough money on hand to accept your claim.
Lotto, InstaPlay and instant-scratch games may be redeemed at any participating location. Pull-tab games have to be redeemed at the location where you purchased the play.
Finally, keep deadlines in mind. Lottery winners have a year to come forward for Powerball, Mega Millions, Lotto America and Lucky for Life.
Iowa Pick 3 and Pick 4 games carry a 90-day deadline. The Iowa Lottery switches up scratch ticket and pull-tab games. Once a game comes to an end, customers have 90 days to cash in those tickets as well.
Unclaimed prizes happen more often than you think. The Iowa Lottery uses abandoned windfalls to boost prizes in future games.
Is another big win on the horizon?
Customers can play the state’s biggest lotto games five days a week.
- Powerball’s drawings are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- Mega Millions drawings are on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Right now, Powerball is a game to watch. The Saturday jackpot is at $400 million as Powerball celebrates its 30th anniversary.
As for Buster, he told lottery officials he’ll use some of his win to pay off his car and the mortgage on his mother’s house. He’ll tuck the rest away for retirement.
“It will take away a lot of my stress in my life — no more of the financial worries,” he said.