Missouri Lottery Winners Gain Right to Stay Anonymous

Friday July 2nd 2021

Missouri has become the latest state to allow lottery winners to keep their details secret. Starting August 28, all winners will be able to remain anonymous under a new law signed by Gov. Mike Parsons on June 29.

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The law makes it illegal to publicly reveal any identifying information about a winner. "Any legislation we get across the finish line that protects Missourians' privacy and safety is a win for Missouri," Parson said.

Previously, state law required the Missouri Lottery to release a winner's name, city of residence and amount won, as well as the game played and where the ticket was purchased. Winners were asked questions by Lottery officials for a press release, and were also asked to take part in a press conference, although they were not required to do so.

Under the new law, winners have an automatic right to stay anonymous and it will become a misdemeanor to reveal their personal data - doing so could result in up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

However, winners have the right to request that their details are made public, in which case it is legal do so. They will need to ask for a publicity form and give written permission waiving their anonymity.

The legislation, HB 402, passed the House and Senate earlier this year. The bill's sponsor, Representative Jay Mosley, said his goal was to shield winners from potential harm, including being targeted by scammers and criminals.

"The last thing we want is for the excitement of winning the lottery to be replaced with a sense of fear because the newfound money draws unwanted attention," Mosley explained.

"This is a safety issue and a way to give winners protection from being easily targeted," he said last year. "Many winners have talked about how winning a lottery prize brought them unwanted attention. This bill is simply a way to allow people to feel safe when they win."

Mosley, a Democrat who represents Florissant, had sponsored the bill for the last three years before finally achieving its unanimous passage through both the state House and Senate, where it was approved 33-0 and 149-0, respectively.

The Missouri Lottery previously said that publicizing winners' information boosts ticket sales, and allowing anonymity could negatively impact the state's 4,800 lottery retailers, who benefit from publicity about winning tickets they've sold.

The law "impedes the Lottery’s ability to transparently provide information to Missourians about the hundreds of people who win large prizes monthly," said Jay Boresi, the Lottery’s Director of Legal Services.

And the Missouri Press Association (MPA) believes that publicizing winners is a key part of maintaining the public's faith in the Lottery.

"Keeping the names of Lottery winners open promotes transparency and a feeling of fairness in the operation of the Missouri Lottery," MPA said in testimony against the legislation. "Publishing the winners' names is good for the entire Lottery system. Revealing Lottery winners' names builds trust and excitement, which drives ticket sales."

However, Mosley countered that in fact, the Lottery actually lost sales due to players' concerns about their details being made public. He said that Missourians are heading across the border to Kansas to buy tickets, where they would be allowed to stay anonymous should they win.

There has been a growing trend in recent years to protect winners' privacy, with Montana and Minnesota passing legislation this year to provide their winners with anonymity.

Minnesota's law, which comes into effect on September 1, will keep the names of players who win over $10,000 private unless they provide written authorization for their details to be released. Montana's law allows all winners to stay anonymous regardless of prize value.

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