We just got a question on Facebook that highlights an issue we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into here at the lottery. A woman named Kimbra asked it this way: “So once somebody wins the big prize, is the scratcher over?” Kimbra may not have realized it, but she touched on a topic that’s had a lot of debate through the years. And interestingly, we’ve heard from players on both sides.
As part of our standard procedures, we end sales in our scratch and pull-tab games for a few different reasons, one of which is when the last top prize in a game has been claimed.
We have dozens of games for sale at any one time, but there are only so many spots available for them in our vending machines and ticket dispensers. That means some retail locations simply don’t have enough room for all the games that are out there, so the store can decide which games it wants to sell.
Most often, we discontinue sales in a particular scratch game when the last top prize in it has been claimed. We don’t want a game on the market if you don’t still have the chance to win its top prize!
Sometimes we have specially-themed games that are only set to run for a short period of time, like our holiday games. Those games come off the market in January each year because it just wouldn’t make sense if we were selling a snow-themed game in July! But the good news is, we work hard to keep the odds of winning the same in those games as they are in others that are on the market for much longer.
And other times, if a game has been available for some time and players show us through their purchases that they prefer something else, it also will be removed from the shelves.
People’s reactions to our procedures sometimes make us chuckle because they can be so different. We’ve gotten complaints from players who don’t ever want us to end a game, and on the other side of the equation, we’ve heard from those who very definitely want us to do that, especially when the last top prize has been claimed.
In the end, we concentrate on doing what we think is right. Throughout the Iowa Lottery’s history, we’ve designed our policies to err on the side of players as much as possible. A good example of that is how we handle the expiration date for prizes in our games. If a prize would normally expire on a weekend or holiday when our offices are closed, we give you until the following business day to claim the prize. We think that’s only fair.