Charles "Chuck" Svatos hit it big in the Iowa lottery — as Iowa Lottery says, "$25,000 a year for life!" But Svatos, 92, is taking his money in a lump sum, a decision that was presumably made easier because of his age.
By taking the cash option, Svatos received $390,000 — of which the federal government took nearly $100,000 and the state took nearly $20,000, still leaving him with a hefty $273,000, according to Iowa Lottery.
Svatos says he was in the middle of a lucky streak: He was so struck by two auspicious fortune cookie messages he recently received that he kept them in his wallet. One promised he would find "an unexpected treasure."
News of the prescient fortune cookie has made headlines, as lottery officials and media outlets reported Svatos saying the messages had predicted his big win. But Svatos was a bit more circumspect. Calling it a coincidence, he said, "It's hard to believe those fortune cookies; you can never believe them most of the time."
Svatos is a grandfather who retired after working in dairies for 39 years. He bought the $2 Lucky for Life ticket at Gasby's, a convenience store near his home in North Liberty, a suburb north of Iowa City. He regularly visits the store on Sundays to grab a coffee and play the lottery. Svatos says he didn't learn he had picked the winning numbers until a week later — when he went back to the store to play again.
Svatos asked his daughter, Doris Baxter, if she could drive him to claim his prize money. He also asked Baxter how much she made in a day — so he could compensate her. Baxter admits that at first, she wasn't sure if he was joking. Then she checked his numbers on her phone.
"I didn't know that game," Baxter said, as she and her father spoke to lottery officials about the windfall this week. "I went, 'Yeah, looks like you did win.' "
While one fortune cookie had predicted he would come into an unexpected treasure, a second said Svatos would soon ride in an airplane. And that's something Svatos says he also plans to turn into reality.
"There's two places I want to go; they're a long ways off. One's Hawaii, and one's Switzerland. They're the only two," Svatos said.
When Iowa Lottery officials asked Svatos if he feels like he has lived a lucky life, he replied (as his daughter laughed), "Oh, so-so. Not the best, but I've been getting by."
After claiming his money, it was back to food for Svatos. As Iowa newspaper The Gazette reports, he took his daughter out to eat lunch at Cracker Barrel.