DES MOINES, Iowa -- Following the mantra that "everyone deserves a second chance," the Iowa Lottery is planning a summer promotion to give away prize money from two big jackpots that expired without being claimed late last year.
"It's always disheartening when a big prize like that goes unclaimed, because we love to meet Iowa's big winners and hear their stories," Lottery CEO Terry Rich said Friday. "So, we're going to see if we can have better luck the second time around."
One of the unclaimed prizes -- a Hot Lotto® jackpot won with a ticket purchased in Des Moines -- generated international headlines when lawyers representing a trust withdrew the claim for the prize after the ultimate winner or winners refused to answer basic lottery security questions. The Hot Lotto jackpot-winning ticket had been turned in Dec. 29 at the lottery with less than two hours to go before the big prize would have expired, but the "mystery money" claim was withdrawn on Jan. 26, relegating the prize to the ranks of the unclaimed.
And just before that hub-bub had started, an even bigger prize -- that one a $77 million Powerball® jackpot won in Georgia -- also had expired without being claimed. That big prize officially expired Dec. 26.
"With Hot Lotto and Powerball both being multi-state games, the money from these unclaimed jackpots will go back to the individual lotteries that sell the games in proportion to the percentage of sales that came from each state," Rich said. "Iowa's share of the unclaimed Hot Lotto jackpot is about $1.4 million and our share of the unclaimed Powerball jackpot is about $600,000, so we're planning to give away about $2 million to Iowa players this summer."
Here in Iowa, the money from unclaimed prizes goes into the lottery's prize pools for future games, so it will be used to pay prizes, just not those particular prizes that have expired.
"This is a very unusual circumstance and it's money that's going to Iowa Lottery players. The state received its portion from lottery proceeds when the tickets were sold," Rich said. "We can't remember a time when two big prizes like this expired at nearly the same time. Maybe you can call it a 'summer bonus' for Iowa players."
The final details are still being ironed out, but the lottery is looking at a promotion that would start in July and culminate with an event in August at the Iowa State Fair to give away prizes of up to $1 million cash. Lottery officials indicated the promotion will be designed for those who play Hot Lotto and Powerball.
"We're talking about a 'Millionaire at the Fair' event that will give not only our players the chance to win big prizes, but our retailers that sell the winning tickets and audience members as well," Rich said. "We're looking forward to a really fun way to cap off the summer. Like we always say, 'Somebody's going to win it, it might as well be you.'"