Her first question was: When does a jackpot winner get an oversized, ceremonial check like you see in our winner photos and have a celebration at the lottery of their win – when they present the ticket to claim the prize, or several days later when they pick up the check? This particular question applies only to jackpot prizes in our very biggest lotto games, and to the initial days after a jackpot has been won.
Nearly all Iowa Lottery prizes are paid the day that you present the winning ticket. But in the case of jackpots in multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions, it takes about two weeks after a jackpot is won for all the states in the game to transfer the money for the prize into a central account. If the winner claims the prize while those transfers are still in process, he or she will receive payment once all of the states have transferred their portion of the money for that jackpot. In general, that takes about 10 days to two weeks.
We make it a fun celebration when the winner presents the winning ticket to us here at the lottery. We verify the winning ticket at that time and give the winner a ceremonial check that day. We do our best to make it a fun, memorable moment!
Patricia’s next question focuses on the payment form itself: Are lottery prizes always paid by check or does the lottery sometimes do an electronic deposit/wire transfer for the money? We only use an electronic deposit/wire transfer for jackpot prizes. That’s for a few different reasons. There are numerous security requirements involved in the transfer of electronic funds, which can slow down the process and may require fees and additional documentation. We would not want your payment to get stuck in difficulties like that. The risk of a mistake also would increase exponentially with numerous electronic transactions, as would questions about liability. For example, whose fault would it be if a winner inadvertently gave the lottery an incorrect account number and we ended up transferring the prize money to someone else’s account?
For those reasons and many others, nearly all payments for prizes of more than $600 (the level at which a prize needs to be claimed directly from the lottery), are made in the form of a check. Electronic transfers are involved only for jackpot winnings.
Patricia’s last question has to do with the winner’s personal circumstances: If a winner doesn’t have a checking or savings account, does the lottery help them establish one? We certainly remind all our winners to play responsibly and to consult a financial advisor or attorney who can help them make informed decisions when it comes to large prize winnings. But how someone chooses to conduct their personal finances ultimately is up to that person. (Most financial institutions likely won’t cash a check if you don’t have an account there, however.)
Just some food for thought!