A few months ago I received an e-mail from someone claiming to hold a Powerball ticket good for a seven figure sum. This someone, however, was seeking to claim the ticket anonymously, and wanted to know if I had any ideas.
I suspect this someone came across my post about an unclaimed winning lottery ticket in Iowa. In that case, the Iowa Lottery refused to honor the ticket unless the recipient came forward. In both situations, state law required the winner’s name and location to be made public information.
So I wrote back and said it could be considered fraud if someone other than the actual winner claims the prize. I added that I don’t have any viable courses of action to present, and thanked the person for the inquiry.
There are countless reasons why anyone would want to claim a lottery ticket anonymously. The primary reason, of course, is to avoid the public spotlight. Unfortunately, far too many times lottery winners have fallen victim to scam artists or physical harm.
New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli believes lottery winners shouldn’t have to face the fame with their fortune. He recently introduced bill A2982, which would give New Jersey lottery winners the option of remaining anonymous for one year.
The NJ Lottery is likely to lobby against the bill as is. The State Lottery claims that “transparency gives taxpayers increased confidence that lottery games are fair and honest.” But I see a far more significant reason for its opposition: Lost publicity. No one is going to care about a press conference for a lottery winner a year after the fact.
Expect some sort of compromise, such as a prize amount threshold.
I don’t think we should preserve the publicity at the expense of continuing to expose lottery winners to evil. The states generate plenty of revenue from their lotteries and almost certainly could afford to take a small hit, if any. Plus, there are other ways to accomplish transparency.