"Big money. Big money. Big money. Come on, give me some luck!" Richard Watson recalled saying to a convenience store clerk in a town he initially couldn't remember last November.
It is the line Watson said he always used when he bought lottery tickets. He bought a lot of them in numerous states, since he was on the road so often as a traveling salesman from Belton, Missouri.
But if it weren't for the Iowa Lottery, he may never have realized he was a winner of the ticket he bought in Tipton, Iowa, a small town just east of Iowa City.
The winning ticket sold last November. In Iowa, winners have a year to claim their prize.
In this case, since it had been nearly six months since the ticket sold, lottery officials decided to go looking for the winner. Eventually they found him. Lottery executives don't want to reveal exactly how they did it. But they said they can sometimes look through surveillance video at a store where a ticket is sold. That could show the winner's face or, perhaps, the person's vehicle in the parking lot.
Lottery officials contacted Watson's bank. The bank called Watson. "I said, 'oh! Wow! OK,'" Watson said.
Watson had to dig through stacks of old tickets. He found four expired tickets first. Then he found the one from November 16, 2013. That was the winning ticket.
“I travel for work and I have a bundle of lottery tickets that I was planning on going through, but I hadn’t yet,” the 58-year-old said. “And I received a call that I thought was a scam, but it turned out it wasn’t.”
Watson, who takes care of his elderly parents, plans to move them all to Las Vegas where they used to live.
After federal and state withholding, Watson takes home $700,000.
Watson is single. When asked whether this could affect his dating life, Watson laughed and said, "If I could, I'd be wearing a paper sack right now!"
He didn't have that choice since lottery officials say in Iowa anyone who wins at least $250,000 has to agree to come forward publicly and have their identity revealed.
Watson added his mother would have to approve of anyone who now contacts him about dating her new millionaire son.