When two winning tickets for a record $588 million Powerball jackpot were redeemed the old debate about whether winners have the right to remain anonymous was rekindled. In Missouri a couple appeared at a lottery press conference but in Arizona the winner chose to remain anonymous. States have different rules regarding the secrecy of lottery winners. In some states winners are allowed to remain anonymous while in others they are required to attend a press conference. The debate over lottery secrecy has hit state legislatures and lawmakers are asking: Should the winners’ names be secret?
In Michigan and New Jersey bills have been proposed that would allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Winners forced to go public have been the victims of scams, shady business deals and unwanted requests for money. Most lottery officials contend that forcing winners to go public increases sales and reassure the public that lotteries are honest and transparent. Andi Brancato, director of public relations for the Michigan state lottery, said that when players actually see that someone won “it has a much greater impact than when they might read that the lottery paid a big prize to an anonymous player.”
Most state lotteries require that the names of winners be disclosed. In some states winners are required to appear at a press conference. Arizona and several other states do not require winners to appear in public but the names can be obtained through public records. Matthew Good, the Arizona Powerball winner, was not identified at a lottery news conference. Good has not given interviews or appeared in public. Jeff Hatch-Miller, executive director of the Arizona Lottery, said he understands the desire for anonymity but said that lottery players enter into a public contract with the state.
In Michigan State Senator Tory Rocca has proposed a bill that lets winners remain anonymous. Unfortunately Rocca’s bill did not pass. Rocca cited a Florida case where a lottery winner was murdered for his money. Last month a Florida woman was convicted of first-degree murder after she befriended Abraham Shakespeare and took control of his assets. Of the 44 states participating in the Powerball lottery Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota and Ohio allow winners to remain anonymous. Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, stated “Obviously, it is a law that is designed to ensure an open and transparent process, so that the public can be ensured that insiders are not winners. But in today’s world, most of us can understand the wish to remain anonymous.”