Credit: Lyle Muller/IowaWatch

The Iowa Lottery turns 30 years old this year. Where does the money from lottery revenue go? And what about those who succumb to gambling addiction?

“There is an urban myth out there that the lottery was started in Iowa to provide money for education,” Mary Neubauer, the Iowa Lottery’s vice president of external relations. “And I don’t know where that belief came from because, in fact, lottery proceeds in Iowa have never gone directly to education. But it is something that I am questioned about regularly.”

Iowans have spent $6 billion on the lottery over the last three decades. Most money from the lottery goes towards prizes, but over the years more than $1.3 billion has been sent to the general fund. A small portion also goes to gambling treatment efforts.

Debra Buckner, gambling treatment and prevention coordinator for Pathways Behavioral Services, said gambling addictions often remain hidden for a long time before becoming apparent to friends and family members and by that time accumulated debts can be significant. However, she said despite the increased opportunities Iowans have to gamble — in casinos or through lottery games — the percentage of Iowans with gambling additions has remained fairly steady at less than two percent of the state’s adult population.

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