Legislation creating Iowa's lottery was signed into law in April 1985 and the lottery began sales on Aug. 22, 1985, with a kickoff celebration at the Iowa State Fair.
The first product sold by the Iowa Lottery was an instant-scratch game called "Scratch, Match and Win" and players bought more than 6.4 million tickets during its first week of play.
In the years since, the Iowa Lottery has raised nearly $1.3 billion dollars for state programs while awarding more than $2.8 billion in prizes to players. Sometime in March 2006, an Iowa Lottery player purchased the ticket that helped push lottery profits to state programs over that $1 billion threshold.
Lottery profits have helped the state in a variety of ways through the years. When legislation authorizing the Iowa Lottery was signed into law in 1985, lottery profits were earmarked for the Iowa Plan, a long-term economic development program. In 1991, lottery profits were designated for environmental and cultural programs. But after one year, lottery proceeds were directed to the state general fund.
Today, lottery proceeds are used for three main purposes in Iowa. They provide support for veterans; help for a variety of significant projects through the state General Fund and backing for the Vision Iowa program.
The profits from two instant-scratch games and two pull-tab games each year are directed into the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund. The Iowa Lottery estimates that the games will provide about $2 million to $3 million in proceeds annually for the Veterans Trust Fund. The Veterans Trust Fund was created to provide assistance to qualified veterans to help pay for expenses such as job training or college tuition assistance; some dental, vision and hearing assistance; and individual or family counseling programs.
Since 1992, a majority of lottery profits have been directed into the state general fund, where they are used to pay for programs that benefit all Iowans. The Governor and Iowa Legislature allocate money from the general fund based on where they believe those funds are needed most.
In addition to the commitment to the general fund, lottery profits are linked to the Vision Iowa program. Vision Iowa was implemented in 2000 to create tourism destinations in the state, assist with community attractions, and build and repair schools. Direct funding for Vision Iowa comes from gaming revenues. However, as the program was being initiated, investors indicated there was a need to strengthen the Vision Iowa bonds by dedicated $20 million annually in lottery revenues as a backup.
Legislation was approved that dedicates $15 million in lottery revenues to programs for community attractions in Iowa and another $5 million to Vision Iowa programs to build and repair schools if gambling revenues don't reach that amount. Lottery funding will continue to be linked to Vision Iowa over the 20-year payback period of the program's bonds.
The Lottery sells tickets in three general categories: instant-scratch, pull-tab and lotto games. Lottery products are sold at more than 2,500 retail locations in Iowa.
The Iowa Lottery currently has 117 employees who work at its headquarters in Des Moines and its regional offices around the state in Council Bluffs, Storm Lake, Mason City and Cedar Rapids.