Under state law in most of the United States, lottery winners’ identities are public record. It’s a means of keeping the lottery transparent and proving the winners are actual people, but some state lawmakers see it as a dangerous practice that puts overnight millionaires at risk and hope to change it.
In Pennsylvania, state Rep. Ted Harhai (D) said last week he’ll introduce a bill to keep winners’ names anonymous indefinitely. And Arizona Sen. John Kavanagh (R) wants to give winners 90 days before their name is released. He filed a bill that advanced past a state Senate committee Monday.
“It occurred to me to put your name so quickly put out into the public really would subject you to a lot of problems,” Kavanagh told the Arizona Republic. “The safety problems, like your kid being kidnapped or burglarizing your house when you’re suddenly worth $10 million-$20 million dollars, to the little things like suddenly everybody who’s an investment adviser is hounding you.”
Kavanagh sponsored a 2013 bill that would have kept winners’ names from the public forever, but it failed to pass. Lawmakers in other states have proposed similar measures that were never signed into law, including one in New York in 2013, while a 2012 New Jersey bill would have given winners a year before their names were made public.
Concerns over winners’ safety aren’t unfounded. In 2013, a Chicago lottery winner died days before collecting his $425,000 prize. Fluid tests found he was poisoned with cyanide, and in 2012, a Florida woman was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of a lottery winner.
Only Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, and Ohio allow winners to remain anonymous, Chuck Strutt of the Multi-State Lottery Association told The Washington Post.