Iowa Lottery’s Extremely Costly Blooper

Evan Lambert

Updated on:

Eggs cooking on a stove with egg next to the blue flame from the gas

Imagine waking up to discover you won the lottery — just to find out it was all a dream.

That was the nightmare scenario for several people in Iowa, who rose early on November 28, checked their numbers, and learned that they had scored in the Iowa Lottery. Hours later, however, the tune changed, and the Iowa Lottery announced that they had posted the wrong winning numbers. As it turned out, a “human error” had caused the Iowa Lottery to publish incorrect numbers on their website, meaning that those former lucky winners were, well, losers. 

This wasn’t the first time that a state lottery has made an embarrassing mistake. However, this incident did impact a large number of people, as nearly 4,000 “winners” cashed in with incorrect numbers before the mistake was caught. 

After the announcement, those winners weren’t sure anymore if they could keep their money. The resulting furor caused a stir on social media, causing some lottery players to cry that the lottery was “rigged” while others wondered if they should check their numbers again.

Truck driver Corey Stout, who bought lotto tickets Monday, reached out to the Iowa Lottery after the announcement of their mistake and claimed he had thrown away his ticket after seeing the initial incorrect numbers.

“I was up early … checked my tickets and threw them away because according to the Iowa Lottery website they were losers,” he said. “This is very upsetting because I might have thrown away a winning ticket! I don’t care if this was a human error! This is very disturbing and disappointing not knowing if I had actually won a prize and now my tickets are in a landfill.”

According to Iowa Lottery officials, the publication of the incorrect numbers occurred at some point during the organization’s standard procedures. After the Powerball lottery numbers were drawn early Tuesday, two workers in separate locations entered the results in the Iowa Lottery gaming system.

This system then connected to all of the state’s self-service kiosks and lottery terminals. However, one — or both — of those aforementioned workers entered the results incorrectly.

In a gesture of goodwill, however, the Iowa Lottery announced that any “winners” with incorrect numbers could keep their money, as long as they had cashed in winning tickets before the incorrect numbers were removed from the site at 7:15 a.m.

This resulted in 4,000 lucky losers walking away from the fiasco with checks ranging from $4 to $200. All in all, the Powerball was down $24,382 by the end of the day, though the actual Powerball jackpot had gone for around $355 million. 

In the aftermath, many accidental winners were no doubt happy that they could keep their money. However, others on local social media cited the incident as proof the lottery was “rigged.” Ultimately, many lottery fans settled on a middle ground, stating that state lotteries shouldn’t be making mistakes like this in the first place.

To that latter point, Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer told local KCCI News that the organization would conduct an overview of their processes.

“We are looking into, ‘How can we improve the process as we move ahead to try to avoid this happening again?’” she said. “We already have multiple steps in the process to provide that check and balance, but clearly we want to look at it again and say, ‘How can we make this even better?’”

But the blooper was just one in a series of costly lottery mistakes that have happened recently. In September, for instance, a 60-year-old Illinois man won $25,000 for life after a gas station retailer accidentally printed 10 lines of numbers on his lotto ticket.

And back in May 2022, the Mega Millions lottery paid out thousands of dollars after an announcer misread a lottery number on television. So, it isn’t just the Iowa Lottery that needs to be a bit more careful.