Should lottery winners be allowed to stay anonymous in NJ?
In addition to millions of dollars, people who hit major lotteries can also win unwanted attention. Legislation gaining traction in Trenton would change that in New Jersey.
A bill endorsed by the Senate wagering committee would give state lottery winners the option of remaining anonymous indefinitely. Eight states allow that already, at least for large jackpots, and Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, said it’s appropriate.
“People should be able to be private if they choose to be, if they’re fortunate enough to win one of the big lottery prizes for the reasons that I think are obvious to a lot of people,” Burzichelli said.
“Just because you won something doesn’t mean that by rule, you should be held up for public scrutiny,” he said.
Six years ago, state lawmakers voted unanimously to allow winners to remain anonymous for a year. Then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it, citing impacts on transparency, publicity and ticket sales.
Burzichelli said the state Department of the Treasury would help protect the integrity of the lottery by acting as a check on any announcement that a game had an anonymous winner. He said that given how information spreads these days, privacy is a major concern.
“A person who suddenly finds himself coming into that kind of money is probably also going to find they’ve got a lot of lost relatives they never knew they had, friends they never knew they had. Could be subject to a lot of unwanted attention.”
“This kind of announcement goes so wide now,” he said. “You know, 25 years ago, it was maybe a picture in the newspaper. That’s a whole different universe than what the electronic side of things are today.”
Six states allow all lottery winners to remain anonymous: Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. Georgia allows any winner of $250,000 or more to choose to stay anonymous, and Texas allows it for jackpots of $1 million or more.
Currently, the lottery may release the names, hometowns, prize amounts and photographs of winners. Names and hometowns are considered public information. The reasons cited include the public’s trust in the integrity of the games.
The bill would not prevent the Lottery Commission from exchanging data with authorized state agencies for the collection of child support arrears or certain public assistance overpayments, delinquent or defaulted student loan payments or other debts to the state.
The bill is S2267/A3616.