Everyone dreams about taking home a lottery prize, and the coveted "cash for life" option seems like the most ideal for many people.
Charles "Chuck" Svatos had lady luck on his side when he defied the one-in-1,813,028 odds of matching five numbers, making him the third Iowan to claim the second-level Lucky for Life prize.
He had a feeling his luck was going to change after visiting the casino in Rock Island and opening two fortune cookies. One said that he would come into some wealth, and the other predicted he would take a trip.
It looks like they were both right!
Chuck now plans to travel to Hawaii and Switzerland, since he lives comfortably in a retirement home and doesn't need to spend his winnings on a new home or car.
“They’re someplace I’ve always wanted to go,” he told Iowa Lottery Chief Executive Officer Terry Rich.
Chuck spent 39 years of his life working at an Iowa City dairy before retiring and he played the lottery since it started in Iowa in 1985. The best prize he had previously claimed was $6, but that didn't stop him from dreaming about what it would be like to take home some substantial winnings.
The avid lottery player switched up his strategy and that's what lead him to the big prize.
Every week, Chuck would play his regular numbers, but last month when he visited Gasby's convenience store in North Liberty, he tried a different strategy. He went with random numbers on his ticket instead.
“He goes there every weekend, gets coffee, sits at the table, fills out his little cards and turns them in and a week later checks the numbers. So he went a week without knowing that he won,” said Doris Baxter, Chuck's daughter.
The Gasby's employee knew that one of the tickets they sold had one a major prize.
“‘Well, you finally hit it.’ I thought he was just pulling my leg, but he wasn’t. He didn’t say how much it was,” Chuck said when he eventually checked his numbers.
After hearing about his big win Doris said that her dad was "pretty shaky" when he went to share the news with her.
He asked her how much he she made at work each day.
“I said, why? What do you need? He goes, ‘I need you to take me to Cedar Rapids tomorrow.’" she recalled.
The payout can be taken by either receiving $25,000 a year for life, or taking the cash lump sum of $390,000.
For Chuck the decision of which prize to take was simple. The Iowa man just turned 92 last July, so when he walked into the lottery headquarters he walked out with a check for $273,000 (after federal and state taxes).
“Nobody knows it yet,” said Svatos as he claimed his winnings. “I don’t know what they’ll say. They’ll probably say I thought you were broke.”
Rich was surprised when they were first notified of the winner.
“This is a fun winner. With all the crazy stuff happening in the world today, this is what makes our day really fun to have a winner like this. Somebody who deserves it and just a genuinely nice guy.”
Chuck admits that he wish he had won his big prize when he was younger, but he didn't seem to bothered by taking home the big check with his winnings.