Categories
BLOG

virginia lottery winners remain anonymous

Big Virginia Lottery Winners Will Be Allowed To Stay Anonymous

Wednesday April 10 th 2019

Virginia is to become the latest state to give lottery winners a choice of whether they want to go public or not. The House and Senate have passed a law that will come into effect from July 1st, allowing anyone who wins a prize greater than $10 million to remain anonymous if they wish.

The current Freedom of Information Act compels the Virginia Lottery to release the name, hometown and prize amount of winners. However, critics of the law such as Powhatan delegate Lee Ware said that winners were a ‘magnet for attention’ and argued that they should have the right to stay private. The bill, SB 1060, had to clear several hurdles before it was finally signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

The new law will not allow anonymity for everyone, as winners of prizes up to $10 million will still have to go public. However, anyone who wins a larger amount, such as a Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, will now have the option to keep their identity hidden.

The Pros and Cons of Anonymity Laws

Virginia has had numerous big winners, such as the state’s first Powerball jackpot winner Dave Honeywell. The Fredericksburg resident, a computer scientist with the Department of Defense, won $217 million in February 2013 after buying a ticket from Richmond International Airport on Superbowl Sunday. Under the existing laws, he had no choice over his name and hometown being released when he came forward.

The new law will give players who choose to stay anonymous extra peace of mind, as many previous winners have been hassled for money, bombarded by media requests and even expressed concerns about their security.

The main argument against anonymity has always been that everyone should be able to see who wins a lottery. The transparency of knowing that games are won by real people shows that everything is fair and encourages others to take part, which in turn leads to increased ticket sales and more money being raised for state causes.

The $10 million figure in Virginia’s new law is understood to have been chosen because that is the highest prize on offer in any of the state’s scratchcards, so there will still be lots of winners who do go public and the transparency of the lottery will remain intact.

Anonymity in Other States

More and more states are introducing legislation regarding anonymity. Winners in Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming can all stay private, while West Virginia also enacted a law recently that allows winners of more than $1 million to remain anonymous if they relinquish five percent of their prize.

In certain other states, such as Louisiana and Pennsylvania, winners can claim their money through legal trusts or limited liability companies, effectively shielding their identities from the public.

It will be fascinating to see whether Virginia’s change in policy has a positive or negative impact on ticket sales for big games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, and whether the first winner of more than $10 million decides to take advantage of the anonymity law.

Virginia is to become the latest state to give lottery winners a choice of whether they want to go public. The House and Senate have passed a law that will come into effect from July 1st, allowing anyone who wins a prize greater than $10 million to remain anonymous if they wish.

Big Winners in Virginia Can Now Stay Anonymous

Starting this week, winners of the Virginia lottery can remain anonymous.

Imagine hitting a $10 million jackpot in the Virginia Lottery. Immediately your phone blows up. Long-lost relatives start calling. Charities hit you up for donations. Maybe you even get scammed. For people who win the lottery, sometimes more money means to more problems.

“They’ve been subjected to frivolous lawsuits and threatened,” said Delegate Lee Ware, a Republican from Powhatan. “A Virginian who won a prize has moved five times in the last decade to get away from some of these kinds of problems.”

That’s why Ware introduced a bill to allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill back in February, and this week it goes into effect. Critics worry that the new secrecy could lead to corruption.

During the debate over the bill, Republican Senator David Suetterlein of Roanoke mentioned examples of collusion between lottery officials and straw buyers.

“It was amazing how many times they kept winning at the exact same stores, where they happened to have a friend who worked there or who owned the place,” Sutterlein explained.

Virginia is joining six other states where the identity of lottery winners remains shielded from the public.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Starting this week, winners of the Virginia lottery can remain anonymous.