Lottery Anonymity Bill Passes Michigan House of Representatives

Wednesday May 27th 2015

A Michigan lottery anonymity bill has just passed the state House of Representatives 103-7, sparking a debate on transparency and player safety. House Bill 4433 is sponsored by Representative Ray Franz (R-Onekama). who introduced the measure as a means of protecting winners from ill intent as well as preserving their families and friendships. Franz cited his concern for the safety of players as one reason for putting forward the bill, as he fears that current technology could be used to threaten or harass winners.

Currently, lottery winners in Michigan can only opt for anonymity if they win $10,000 or more on state-based games like Lotto 47 or Fantasy 5. If they’re lucky enough to strike it rich on Powerball or Mega Millions, they’ll need to go public. House Bill 4433 would let those who win a huge payout on these games to stay private if they choose to do so.

The bill has faced criticism from the Michigan Lottery and North American Lottery Association President Terry Rich, who told The Daily Beast that publishing the identities of big winners helped drive up sales - and revenue for states. “There’s no doubt: When we have a big winner we sell more,” he said. “If you are a winner and don’t want the public to know, don’t play.”

Michigan Lottery spokesman Jeff Holyfield maintained that revealing the winners satisfied players’ curiosity and that the organization didn’t support the new bill. “From our perspective these folks are receiving substantial sums of money and the public should know who they are,” he said to The Daily Beast.

Six U.S. states - Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina - let players stay anonymous after a big lottery win. Other states offer anonymity if the winner claims their prize through a trust.

A bill similar to the one currently being debated in Michigan was considered in North Carolina in March, but was rejected in committee. Other measures have been considered by legislatures in Arizona, Georgia and New York. The rush of legislation seems to have been sparked by February’s massive $564.1 million Powerball jackpot, which was shared by three ticket holders from North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas. Each of the winners received $188 million before taxes - a truly life-changing amount of money that would be hard to keep quiet.

House Bill 4433 will now be discussed in the Michigan Senate, and it remains to be seen as to whether or not it will pass and become law. If it does, big-ticket winners in the Great Lake State could have the option to stay quiet about their new windfall at some point in the near future.

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