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Lottery Myths vs. The Facts

Lottery Myths vs. The Facts

People have a lot of superstitions when it comes to lotteries. Here are some of the most common myths we've heard, and the real facts involved.

MYTH: The Iowa Lottery was created to raise money for education.

FACT: When the Iowa Lottery started in 1985, it was the height of the Farm Crisis. Iowa's economy was in trouble. So, the Iowa Legislature and Governor's Office, which determine how lottery proceeds are used in Iowa, dedicated the money at that time to the Iowa Plan, a long-term economic development program to create jobs and spur construction, among other goals. Through the years, the money raised by the Iowa Lottery has helped many important causes in our state. You can see all the details on our Lottery Gives Back page.

MYTH: The lottery and/or its retailers know which tickets are winners.

FACT: Fortune TellingLottery tickets and lottery drawings are based solely on random chance. The outcome of one particular ticket has no impact on an upcoming play. And no one - not even those of us who work at the lottery or the retailers that sell our tickets - can predict when or where the next big winner will hit. There's only one "formula" that works when it comes to playing the lottery: You have to buy a ticket to have a chance to win.

MYTH: The Iowa Lottery pays out less today than ever before.

FACT: In fiscal year 1986, the first year that the Iowa Lottery was in operation, 46 percent of each dollar in lottery sales in Iowa went to pay prizes. In fiscal year 2020, 64 cents of each dollar in Iowa Lottery sales went to prizes, an 18 percent increase in prize payout.

MYTH: You have to be a U.S. resident to win an Iowa Lottery prize.

FACT: There are no resident or citizenship requirements when it comes to playing or winning the Iowa Lottery. A lottery by its very definition is a game that can be won by anyone from anywhere, provided that they have a legally-purchased ticket. People from many different countries have won Iowa Lottery prizes through the years, and it's fun to meet them and learn their stories.

MYTH: Court HouseIf you choose the annuity option and die before receiving your final prize payment, the state keeps the money.

FACT: If you should pass away before your final lottery annuity payment has been made, the prize money goes into your estate. The Iowa Lottery then makes payments to those listed in the terms of the winner's estate or as determined by a court order.

MYTH: No one from here ever wins.

FACT: This seems to be an urban legend based on the area you're from, no matter where that is. We think it comes from the fact that people will never be truly satisfied unless they're the ones who win! In reality, players can and do win Iowa Lottery prizes every day. Everyone has the same chance of winning. But there will be more winners in places where more tickets are sold. Another way of putting it is that if 5 percent of lottery tickets are sold in a particular area, you expect to find about 5 percent of overall winners there, and that's been the case with the Iowa Lottery.

MYTH: I don't know anyone who plays the lottery.

FACT: The reality is that more than 80 percent of Iowa adults play the lottery. They represent the demographics you will find in Iowa's general population.