Whoever recently won the $1.337 billion Mega Millions jackpot will never have to reveal their identity. Illinois Lottery says winners of prizes over $250,000 can request to have their name and hometown retained confidential.
This is not the case in many states, but a growing number of state legislators have sought to grant lottery winners anonymity and provide them with a sense of privacy and security.
“It’s actually been a little trend in the industry over the last few years, every four or five years, to consider going anonymous – for legislatures to step in and change the way lotteries work and insert the anonymity clauses,” Arizona Lottery executive Gregg Edgar told NPR.
In Arizona, lottery winners only had 90 days of secure anonymity before that person’s information became public. Now the organization website says “winners of $100,000 or more may choose to keep their name confidential at all times.”
Why do few states grant anonymity?
The North American State and Provincial Lottery Association, a nonprofit trade association, says players cannot remain anonymous in most jurisdictions.
“State and provincial legislators want the public to know that the lottery is run honestly and therefore require that at a minimum the winner’s name and city of residence be listed,” his website bed. “That way the public can be reassured that the price was really paid to a real person.”
Edgar said he has a fiduciary responsibility for Arizona’s budget to be transparent about how the organization makes and spends money.
“For many of us, we see this as – it’s public funds, it’s public [money]we have to make sure we are transparent and people can see that there are winners coming forward,” he said. But, he added, that transparency must be balanced with protecting the security of the winners.
Edgar expects the push to protect the anonymity of lottery winners will continue in other states across the country as the jackpots continue to grow.
States have their own public records laws
Vermont is among the majority of states that do not grant anonymity.
“While the Lottery routinely honors winners’ requests not to post their personal information on social media, anyone can always request to obtain a copy of or inspect recordings produced or acquired by the Lottery as part of its activities under the Vermont Public Records Act,” Wendy Knight, commissioner of the state’s Department of Liquor and Lotteries, said in a statement to NPR.
“Any player concerned about the privacy and security issues of claiming a prize may wish to obtain professional services through an accountant, attorney, tax advisor and/or another consultant to assess and strategize on the available options and decide what makes the most sense for them,” Knight added.
Lawmakers pushing for anonymity of lottery winners have cited privacy and security concerns. A 2021 law in Missouri now makes it a crime to reveal the identity of a lottery winner.
Proponents of the legislation wanted to protect winners from threats or harassment when others found out about their prize, according to a previous report Associated press.
For more information about anonymity where you live, check your state lottery’s website.