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25 Years Of Lottery In Iowa: Billions In Prizes To Winners And Proceeds To State Causes

Iowa's First Lottery Tickets Debuted On Aug. 22, 1985

It was a cool, rainy day during the kick-off celebration for Iowa Lottery sales at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 22, 1985. Lottery players, some wearing trash bags to try to stay dry, lined up to buy the first tickets.
  Hear Mary Neubauer, Iowa Lottery VP of External Relations, talk about 25 years of Lottery in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa - As the Iowa Lottery's silver anniversary approaches, a look back shows that 25 years of lottery entertainment in Iowa has produced billions of dollars in prizes for winners and proceeds for vital state causes.

Legislation authorizing a lottery in Iowa was signed into law on April 18, 1985, and Iowa Lottery sales began with a kick-off celebration on Aug. 22, 1985, at the Iowa State Fair.

Over the years, the lottery has created life-changing moments for prize winners, provided valuable help in the form of sales commissions to the thousands of Iowa businesses that sell lottery tickets, and raised significant proceeds for the state causes that benefit all Iowans.

Here is a look at 25 years of lottery history in Iowa by the numbers (figures current through fiscal year 2010 unless otherwise noted):

  • $4.8 billion = Total Iowa Lottery sales
  • $2.6 billion = Total prizes won by Iowa Lottery players
  • $1.2 billion = Total lottery proceeds to Iowa causes
  • $379.2 million = Total lottery sales commissions paid to Iowa businesses that sell lottery tickets
  • $200.8 million = Largest lottery prize won in Iowa to date. Tim and Kellie Guderian of Fort Dodge claimed that Powerball jackpot on Oct. 4, 2006.
  • 6.4 million = Number of lottery tickets sold during the lottery's first week of sales
  • 2,374 = Number of retail locations in Iowa that sell lottery tickets (current as of August 2010)
  • 1,089 = Number of Iowa Lottery tickets that have won prizes of $100,000 or more (through August 2010)
  • 110 = Number of Iowa Lottery tickets that have won prizes of $1 million or more (through August 2010)
  • 686 = Number of instant-scratch games sold in Iowa from 1985 through present
  • 155 = Number of pull-tab games sold in Iowa from the product's introduction in 1987 through present
  • 17 = Number of lotto games sold in Iowa from the product's introduction in 1986 through present
  • 6 = Number of Powerball® jackpots won by Iowa Lottery players to date
  • 6 = Number of Hot Lotto® jackpots won by Iowa Lottery players to dates

Through the years, there have been a number of lottery "firsts" in Iowa:

  • In 1985, the Iowa Lottery achieved the fastest start-up among U.S. lotteries at the time, beginning ticket sales just 122 days from the signing of its enabling legislation.

  • "Scratch, Match and Win," a $1 instant-scratch game, was the first product sold by the Iowa Lottery. More than 6.4 million tickets were sold in its first week of play.

  • Bill Watson of Council Bluffs became Iowa's first lottery millionaire when he won more than $4 million in the lottery's "Wheel Spin" game on Nov. 14, 1985.

  • On Oct. 12, 1987, the Iowa Lottery became the first in the nation to sell pull-tab tickets, when the "Supreme Cherry Bell" game began as an experiment in seven counties. Pull-tabs were introduced statewide later in the year.

  • On Feb. 11, 1988, sales in the multi-state Lotto*America game began in Iowa and six other states. On April 19, 1992, the world-record-setting jackpot game of Powerball replaced Lotto*America in Iowa and 14 other states, with jackpots starting at a guaranteed $2 million. Ed Stanek, who then was commissioner of the Iowa Lottery, was a co-inventor of the Powerball game.

  • On Aug. 15, 1992, total Iowa Lottery sales passed the $1 billion mark. And in March 2006, total Iowa Lottery proceeds to the state topped $1 billion.

  • The Iowa Lottery became the first in the United States to offer a scratch game played on a personal computer when sales in Treasure Tower began on Oct. 16, 2000. Combining a traditional scratch game with CD-ROM technology, Treasure Tower also was the first lottery product to offer built-in parental control.

  • In October 2004, the Iowa Lottery became the first in the world to sell an electronic version of the traditional instant-scratch game that packs dozens of plays onto a single card for more playing time. Each electronic game card, about the size of a driver's license, was battery powered and loaded with dozens of random plays.

  • On Sept. 10, 2007, the Iowa and Kansas lotteries became the first in the United States to offer a joint instant-scratch game. Players in both states bought tickets and competed for prizes in "Midwest Millions." The initial run of Midwest Millions was successful and the two lotteries have since sold two more versions of the game.

  • And on July 14, 2008, sales began in "Stars & Stripes," the first Iowa Lottery game to benefit our state's veterans and their families. In March 2008, legislation was signed into law that authorized the lottery to create two new instant-scratch games and two additional pull-tab games each year, with all profits from the games dedicated to the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund.

Here is a breakdown by program of how more than $1.2 billion in lottery proceeds have benefitted state causes (from fiscal year 1986 through the end of FY 2010):

General Fund

Within the state budget, the general fund provides money to a variety of vital projects in Iowa. Some of the programs that receive money from the general fund include education, natural resources, health and family services and public safety. The Governor and the Iowa Legislature allocate money from the general fund based on where they believe those funds are needed most. Since 1992, Iowa Lottery proceeds have been directed to the general fund.

Iowa Veterans Trust Fund

The Iowa Veterans Trust Fund was created to provide assistance to qualified veterans and their families. The Veterans Trust Fund helps pay for expenses such as job training or college tuition assistance; some dental, vision and hearing assistance; and individual or family counseling programs. Proceeds from some lottery instant-scratch and pull-tab games have been dedicated to the Veterans Trust Fund since 2008.

Iowa Plan

The Iowa Plan was a long-term economic development program. The Iowa Plan was divided into four basic areas: a Jobs Now program designed to put people to work; government construction programs; community and economic betterment; and educational and agricultural research. Lottery profits were dedicated to the Iowa Plan from fiscal year 1986 through fiscal year 1990.


The CLEAN Fund stood for Committing the Lottery to Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program dedicated money to environmental and cultural causes. Lottery profits were dedicated to the CLEAN Fund during fiscal year 1991.

Iowa Gambling Treatment Fund

The Iowa Gambling Treatment Program provides treatment, counseling and outreach programs for those concerned about gambling as well as the 1-800-BETSOFF helpline. The Iowa Lottery is committed to responsible play and helps address the issue of problem gambling. Each year, the lottery provides the public with information about 1-800-BETSOFF by including messages about the helpline on millions of lottery tickets, brochures and point-of-sale materials as well as other publications. The Iowa Lottery also provided more than $15.7 million to the Iowa Gambling Treatment Fund. In 2009, the Gambling Treatment Fund was eliminated, with the Gambling Treatment Program now receiving its funding from the state General Fund.

Special Appropriations

A portion of lottery profits through the years have been earmarked for specific purposes within the state budget.


Captions for photos:

  1. On Aug. 22, 1985, Iowa Lottery employees Jeff Borron and Mary Kay Zaver wore "moneybags" costumes on a stage at the Iowa State Fair as they joined the crowd in cheering the start of lottery sales.

  2. It was a cool, rainy day during the kick-off celebration for Iowa Lottery sales at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 22, 1985. Lottery players, some wearing trash bags to try to stay dry, lined up to buy the first tickets.

  3. Powerball® and Mega Millions® are two of the biggest games today for the Iowa Lottery. Lottery CEO Terry Rich (center) was joined by television personality Mike Pace (left) and Treasurer of State Michael Fitzgerald on Feb. 2, 2010, at the state Capitol to mark the start of Mega Millions sales in Iowa.