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Iowa State Lotteries Laws

Iowa began its state lottery in 1985. The excitement of playing the lottery and the fact that it gives back to great programs for the state (as well as programs you might think aren’t so great in the general fund), is a big draw.

Realistically, the chance of winning a large amount of money is why most people play. Unfortunately, a quick reality check is that your odds of winning a lottery are quite low. Critics argue that the $5-20 you spend a week or month on lottery tickets would probably be better invested by saving for retirement. However, the lottery is a form of amusement and if you enjoy it, it’s a great way to give back your state through playing along.

The following chart outlines the main Iowa lottery laws.

Code Section Iowa Code Chapter 99G – Iowa Lottery Authority Act
Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 531 – Iowa Lottery Authority
Distribution of Lottery Revenue The net proceeds of the lottery are transferred to the state general fund to provide monies to a wide variety of state causes. Among those programs that have received funding are:
  • Iowa Veterans Trust Fund – Provides qualified veterans with tuition, job training, and counseling, dental, vision, and hearing assistance since 2008
  • Iowa Plan – A long-term economic development program funded through the lottery from 1986 to 1990
  • Vision Iowa – Since 2000, has created tourism destinations in the state, assisted with community attractions, and built and repaired schools
  • Iowa Gambling Treatment Fund – Treatment program for problem gamblers, includes the helpline 1-800-BETSOFF
Additional Purpose of Lottery To support a variety of programs and services and to provide continuing entertainment to the public, in the form of the lottery.
Lottery Prize Subject to Garnishment Yes, prizes of over $600 are subject to garnishment for claimant agencies. Therefore, if you owe, for example, back child support, then that can be taken out by the lottery authority before you are given the remaining lottery prize, if any.
Time Limit to Claim Prize The statute states that the lottery commissioner can determine how long a winner has to claim a prize and how to return unclaimed money to a future prize pools. Administrative decisions resulted in the following time limits:
  • 90 days for Scratch and Pull-tab prizes and Iowa’s Pick 3 and Pick 4 prizes
  • 365 days (1 year) for Powerball, Mega Millions, Hot Lotto, Monopoly Millionaires’ Club, and All or Nothing games
Prohibited Related Activities Many lottery-related activities are prohibited, including:
  • Selling a ticket at a greater price than authorized or when not authorized to sell them
  • Selling a ticket to a minor, which for the lottery is under 21, not under 18 as it is in other states (such as New York or Illinois)
  • Forging or altering a ticket to try to claim winnings

Should the big American dream happen to you, winning a large lottery prize, you should immediately seek help from an experienced Iowa estate planning lawyer and tax expert to develop a strategy to collect and protect your lottery winnings. There are many steps you can take to ensure you don’t lose the money quickly after finally getting rich.

If you’ve been spending more on the lottery and other gambling activities than you can afford and want to stop, please call the Iowa gambling helpline, 1-800-BETSOFF. This helpline is operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you. If you have a problem with gambling, you may want to sign up for the Iowa lottery voluntary self-exclusion program, where you aren’t sent promotional materials and you can’t win a lottery prize of over $600.

Note: State laws are constantly being updated. It’s best to contact a local gaming attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify any state laws you’re reading about.

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