Montana Lottery Winners Get the Right to Stay Anonymous

Thursday April 15th 2021

If you're lucky enough to win a lottery prize in Montana, you now have the choice to remain anonymous thanks to a new state law that prevents winners' names from being made public.

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The Legislature passed the bill allowing lottery winners to keep their identities private last month and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law on March 31.

Although the law does not include a start date, the Montana Lottery quickly implemented the change; a press release on April 9 listing recent large prizes did not include winners' names.

A Lottery spokesperson confirmed that winners' names will not be made public. Only limited information will be released, including the community where a prize was won, the value of the prize, the game played and the name of the retailer where the winning ticket was purchased.

In addition, the winner's name or photo cannot be used for promotional reasons without their written permission.

Over the past few years, a growing number of states have become concerned about winners' right to stay anonymous, citing harassment and even crime targeting them. Republican Rep. Frank Garner of Kalispell said individuals who have won big prizes have been preyed upon.

The bill gained overwhelming support in the Legislature, passing the House unanimously and with only four votes against it in the Senate.

Previously, the MT Lottery's policy was to make winners' names public. The argument for publicizing winners' identities is that it allows people to see that the lottery process is transparent and regular players really do win.

Before the law came into effect, Montana winners still had the option to form a trust to claim the prize on their behalf. The name of the trust was public, but the winner's identity was shielded.

Winners' names may still be released under a court order, and the Lottery will continue to share names with federal and state agencies, including the IRS, to verify whether winners of substantial prizes owe, for example, child support or back taxes.

If you've won more than $600, you must also submit your Social Security Number or federal tax identification number to the Lottery for tax reporting and withholding purposes.

Currently, Montana winners can claim a prize by mail, or call 444-5825 to make an appointment to visit Helena headquarters in person. In-person claims are scheduled every Tuesday and Thursday. Whichever way you redeem your ticket, if you've won more than $599 you'll also need to provide a completed claim form and valid identification.

Since the Montana Lottery launched ticket sales in 1987, it has awarded more than $694 million in prizes - that's over $54,000 per day on average! By law, the Lottery must pay at least 45 percent of its revenue as prizes. The Lottery has also transferred around $289 million to the state for use in the Montana General Fund, and paid $78 million in retailer commissions.

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