Illinois Lottery Winners Could Receive Anonymity

Tuesday April 17th 2018

Lottery winners in Illinois could soon be allowed to maintain their anonymity in proposed changes put forward by the state’s lawmakers. Under the new laws, any player who wins a jackpot of over $250,000 playing lottery games such as Powerball, Mega Millions and Illinois Lotto would have the option to choose anonymity if they so wish.

Current Laws

Under the present ‘Right to Know’ law in America, a jackpot winner’s name, town and prize winnings must be made available for public information in any lottery game.

However, there are currently six American states that are exceptions to the rule, allowing jackpot winners to keep their anonymity if they wish to do so, regardless of which game they play. Those states are Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina.

Deciding whether to stay private or opt for publicity is a big decision that players from these states must make soon after landing the jackpot, and there are arguments for and against going down the anonymity route.

Moreover, some states – including Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts – allow players to claim their winnings anonymously through a trust to protect the name of the ticket holder.

If the proposed changes in Illinois go through, jackpot winners of over $250,000 will have a similar dilemma to resolve.

Illinois Changes

The suggested changes for Illinois were presented by State Senator Laura Murphy earlier this month. She had her bill accepted 12-1 at the Senate Gaming Committee, outlining that a jackpot winner would have to contact the state’s Lottery director to be granted anonymity.

So, as The Prairie State could become the next state to grant jackpot winners anonymity (for winnings over $250,000), should players stay anonymous or should they go public?

Why Remain Anonymous?

There are several reasons why lottery winners might prefer to opt for anonymity. Primarily, lottery winners who have amassed a recent windfall can be subjected to scams, fraud, bankruptcy and criminal activity when their details are released into the public domain. Staying private with winnings can make it much harder for winners to fall victim to these dealings, protecting their privacy as well as the wellbeing of their family and close friends.

Additionally, choosing anonymity can stop winners receiving unwanted attention from strangers, close acquaintances and distant connections. When a lottery winner suddenly possesses a substantial fortune, existing relationships can change overnight, including with family and friends. People may look at you differently if they know how much money you’ve received, and you could start receiving messages from strangers begging for money.

Why Go Public?

One advantage of going public after a significant lottery win – such as $250,000 – is that winners don’t have to keep details to themselves and continue putting up a front to hide their news.

Going public offers winners more freedom to speak to family and friends about their new-found fortune, because they don’t have anything to hide and aren’t trying to keep a low profile after keeping their identity private. The secrecy of anonymity can put a strain on winners, which means some might struggle to enjoy their winnings as much as they should.

Lottery winners who go public traditionally take part in a formal press conference and a photoshoot to promote their jackpot win and the lottery game they played. Although winners are in the public spotlight at the time of the win, they don’t stay in the limelight forever. Things do eventually calm down, allowing public winners to return to their relatively normal lives.

Furthermore, even if players choose anonymity, this doesn’t mean that their identity may not be leaked and revealed later down the line, so it may be better to just be open and honest about your winnings right from the off.

Finally, putting a face to the name of winners adds legitimacy to American lotteries like Powerball, Mega Millions and Illinois Lotto, as it shows that the money spent by players does in fact go towards the jackpot amounts. If no details of winners are revealed to the public, these games might see a decrease in ticket sales, as players can’t relate to the anonymous winners coming forward.

Past Cases

A recent anonymity case involving a New Hampshire Powerball winner was well documented, as January’s jackpot winner of $559.7m – only known as “Jane Doe” – went to court in a bid to keep her identity anonymous. She expressed significant concern over her safety if her name was made public and wanted “the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of half-billion dollars.”

Examples like this show that the proposed changes in Illinois could be welcomed by lottery players across the United States who, in the event of a big win, wouldn’t want to face the pressure of going public.

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