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Lottery Winner Anonymity a Hot Topic in Debate Among States

Image: Lottery Winner Anonymity a Hot Topic in Debate Among States
A customer purchases a Powerball lottery ticket at a 7-Eleven store on August 7, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 15 Jan 2016 12:40 PM

State governments have been debating the rights of lottery winners to keep their names secret, a concern that pits privacy rights against outing winners to ensure the public knows the lottery is paying its bills.

Some states — Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Carolina — already allows winners to keep their names out of the news, The Associated Press reported. A few others, including Colorado and Connecticut, allow a trust to be established and an attorney to pick up the lottery check, again keeping individual names out of the spotlight.

Some winners, though, aren't worried about protecting their anonymity. A Tennessee couple and their children went on the "Today" show Friday claiming to possess one of the winning tickets to the largest Powerball jackpot ever. Although lottery officials have not verified the win, John Robinson, sitting beside his wife, Lisa, held up a ticket showing the winning numbers while on the show.

But whatever the individual winner's choice, advocates on both sides of the issue are speaking out for and against offering anonymity.

Jackpot winners "get a big old target painted on their backs," Andrew Stoltmann, an Illinois attorney who has represented winners, told the AP. "They get harassed and harangued into some horrifically bad investments."

Stoltmann likened revealing the names to " throwing meat into a shark-infested ocean." Some have pointed to lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare, a Florida janitor who won $17 million in 2006 and was eventually murdered by someone wanting access to his fortune, the AP said.

But for states running the lotteries, keeping winners secret encourages the public to be suspicious over whether jackpots are really being paid out. It also makes it easier for some to get away with cheating, the wire service noted.

Some states do make exceptions to their rules if winners can prove they'll be in danger if their win is made public.

In March 2015, North Carolina legislators rejected an attempt to allow lottery winners to keep their names out of the media, The New York Times reported.

"I think it’s the curse of the lottery that your name is out there forever," Patrick Nowlin, who won a $41 million Powerball jackpot in 2007, told The Times. "Even after seven years, every once in a while I get a suspicious phone call."

But the executive director of North Carolina's lottery didn't want anonymity offered to lottery players.

"If you don’t provide the winners' names, then I think it becomes suspicious as to whether there really are winners or not," Alice Garland told The Times.


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State governments have been debating the rights of lottery winners to keep their names secret, a concern that pits privacy rights against outing winners to ensure the public knows the lottery is paying its bills.
lottery, winners, names, secret, rights
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2016-40-15
Friday, 15 Jan 2016 12:40 PM
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