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Iowa Lottery has record-breaking sales, proceeds, prize totals for fiscal 2019

Mega Millions, scratch games spur jump in sales

Iowa Lottery logo
Iowa Lottery logo

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa Lottery set records in sales, proceeds to state causes, prizes to players and retail commissions in fiscal 2019, Chief Executive Officer Matt Strawn announced Wednesday during a stop at the state’s perennial top ticket seller.

The Iowa Lottery brought in $92.8 million in the budget year that ended June 30 for state causes — an increase of over $5 million from the year before. Ticket sales jumped from $371 million to $390.9 million.

The largest increase in ticket sales came in the Mega Millions game, which went from $21.3 million to $36.3 million in sales. Scratch games also saw a $6.3 million jump.

“Iowans still love their old-school scratch games,” Strawn said.

He attributed the increase in sales to retailers knowing their communities and better participation in many of the large jackpot games.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Iowa Lottery has broken its record for sales, proceeds to state causes and prizes to winners. The retail commissions broke a record from fiscal 2016.

The $92.8 million in proceeds will go to four main causes: the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund, the Iowa Public Safety Survivor Benefits Fund, the state’s general fund and the Vision Iowa Program to help provide community attractions.

Strawn made the announcement at the Hy-Vee at 20 Wilson Ave. SW, which has been the top seller of Iowa Lottery tickets for five years.

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“They know their customers and its people,” Strawn said. “They work very closely with our district sales reps here, and they do a great job interacting.”

Six of the state’s top 10 stores in lottery sales are in Cedar Rapids. Five of the six Cedar Rapids retailers are Hy-Vee grocery, gas or drugstores. JJ’s Convenience Store on Johnson Avenue and Edgewood Road NW also cracked the top 10.

Statewide, Hy-Vee had eight of the top 10 lottery-selling retailers.

Three of the top seven winners of the Iowa Lottery are from Illinois.

This is Strawn’s first year as CEO of the Iowa Lottery. Like his predecessor, he envisions the Iowa Lottery expanding into mobile and online platforms.

“My challenge is to continue to responsibly innovate our product offerings to meet consumers where they are,” Strawn said. “Those are conversations we want to have with our stakeholder communities.”

He said he’s looking to add these digital features in a way that still involves retailers and keeps gambling on the lottery responsible.

“Anything we do when it comes to potential new product offerings needs to be done with an eye toward what fits the culture and values of who we are as Iowans,” Strawn said.

Measures could include setting limits on players’ accounts on amounts of money and frequency of gambling, which do not exist with the current offerings. Strawn said push notifications to smartphones for “responsible gaming messages” are also a possibility.

He did not directly answer whether a move toward digital requires approval from the Iowa Legislature, but he said he is “having conversations” with legislators.

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The Iowa Lottery previously expressed interest in being part of the sports betting scene now legalized through casinos in the state, but Strawn said Wednesday that is “a decision for the policy makers.” All but one of Iowa’s 19 state-licensed casinos have applied to conduct sports betting, which for some could begin Aug. 15.

• Comments: john.steppe@thegazette.com

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