VIDEO: Iowa’s got two finalists for $1 Million prize in Powerball New Year’s drawing

Rob Long of Waterloo and Shari Beenken of Titonka are two of the finalists in the Powerball $1 million drawing that will take place just after midnight on New Year’s Day 2022. [courtesy Iowa Lottery]

Here’s some exciting and unexpected news: Iowa has two of the five nationwide finalists for a $1 million prize that will be awarded in a special Powerball® drawing just after midnight in the New Year.

The winner will be announced live on air just after midnight EST during ABC’s broadcast of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2022 from New York’s Time Square.

This is the third year for the Powerball First Millionaire of the Year® promotion, and the first time that a single state has had more than one of the finalists for the $1 million prize.

Iowa’s finalists have two very different stories. Shari Beenken of Titonka, a Kossuth County community of about 500, entered Powerball tickets in the promotion she purchased on her own, while Rob Long of Waterloo entered tickets he bought on behalf of a group of his co-workers, friends and family who pool their money to buy tickets. He calls the group Lotto 22.

With two players in the running, Iowa has a 40 percent chance of having the $1 million winner. The other finalists for the prize are from Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

Shari, 57, is an office administrator at an Algona business. She said her heart was pounding, she had tears in her eyes and she was a bit in shock when she learned she was one of the finalists.

Rob, 50, is a warehouse associate in Waterloo, He said he also was shocked by the news, but then had fun sharing the details with his group. A lot of them didn’t know he’d entered their tickets in the promotion, and he said he loved seeing the surprise on people’s faces.

Iowa and 28 other lotteries in the Powerball game participated in this year’s edition of the First Millionaire of the Year promotion, which gave players the chance to enter their Powerball tickets for a shot at more winnings. Iowa Lottery players could enter tickets into the promotion back in September, and on Sept. 30, the Iowa Lottery selected 20 of them (including Beenken and Long) as semi-finalist winners of $2,500 each.

Those 20 Iowa winners along with the semi-finalists from the other states in the promotion were all then entered into a random drawing to determine the five finalists for the $1 million prize. And Iowa ended up with two of the five!

For being selected as a finalist, Shari and Rob each will receive a $10,000 cash prize and a home party package also valued at $10,000, including a 70-inch LED TV, karaoke system, premium laptop computer, and deluxe dinner for eight.

Rob held a drawing with the help of a member of his group and his wife to determine how the Lotto 22 would split up the home entertainment package. They put all the group members’ names in a bowl and selected winners of the merchandise prizes. The group is evenly splitting the $10,000 cash prize.

Shari said that if she’s the $1 million winner, she and her husband, Rod, plan to invest a majority of the winnings. But she said she’d spend a little of the money as well. She said she’s not extravagant, but she needs a new dishwasher.

If Rob is the $1 million winner, the prize will be split amongst his group, with each member receiving about $45,500 before taxes. Rob said that his wife, Heather, would like a newer vehicle, so his share of the winnings will likely go towards that. But he also has a purchase of his own in mind.

Rob said he’s an ‘80s guy who has always loved arcade games, and he wants his own Donkey Kong machine.

Shari, Rob and the other three finalists for the $1 million prize will be in their hometowns on New Year’s Eve. The national television broadcast will check in with them throughout the night. Then just after midnight EST, the $1 million winner will be announced!

For those wondering, here are the members of the Lotto 22:

From Clarksville: Scott Herrmann and Victor Herrmann
From Denver: Bruce Gonnerman
From Dunkerton: Michael Nicolaus and Nancy Smock
From Independence: Bryan Cain and Kristen Kayser
From Jesup: Ronald Kester
From La Porte City: Bruce Long
From Oelwein: Ellyn Perkins
From Plainfield: Valeria Marks
From Raymond: Randy Ruehs
From Shell Rock: Grant Clark
From Waterloo: Trish Bandfield, Mark Burke, Steven Foster, Kelvin Holmes, Rob Long, Nesffy Molina, Mike O’Connor, Martin Van Horn, Eric Woodward.