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Powerball Publicity: Can Winners Stay Anonymous?

One of the most common questions about Powerball is whether winners can remain anonymous or if they must disclose their identities to the public. In the majority of states, if you were to win the jackpot, you wouldn’t have a choice over staying anonymous, as certain information about you would be deemed public interest and therefore would be made public.

Some states do allow you to maintain your anonymity, however, and there’s also the option of claiming through a trust or other legal entity, which provides another way of obscuring your identity from the wider world.

Why Your Identity Might Be Revealed

The main reason that information about jackpot winners is revealed is to preserve the integrity of the lottery and to prove that the game is being conducted fairly. Should no winners ever be made known, players may begin to question where the money is going and might mistrust the state lotteries that operate Powerball. Although these organizations are closely audited and draws take place under a great deal of scrutiny, nothing shows the public that winnings are actually being paid out better than a highly publicized press conference and photo shoot with the winners.

It is also in the best interests of the selling lotteries to release a winner’s information. By publicizing news of big wins, they can potentially draw more attention to the game and encourage more people to buy tickets. This has a snowball effect, where the more publicity there is around the lottery, the greater the number of tickets sold and the higher the jackpot rises.

The Case for Anonymity

Opinion may be shifting, however, as many people now believe that lottery winners have the right to remain anonymous. This is partly because of the disruptive effect that big lottery wins can have on a person’s life, especially if the prize amount approaches record levels. Winners of hundreds of millions – or even billions – of dollars can expect to be in the public spotlight for the foreseeable future.

A more pressing case for anonymity regards the very safety of the winners themselves. In recent years, there have been some high-profile cases of lottery winners being targeted by criminals after their identities were disclosed to the public. Some winners have been injured and even killed as a result of the attention drawn to them by their newfound wealth. By being allowed to remain anonymous, this sort of risk would be almost completely mitigated.

Recently, there has been an upwelling of support for the anonymity cause, and more and more states are considering proposals to allow their lottery winners to remain anonymous. Currently, 14 states allow winners to remain anonymous by law. The jurisdiction of Puerto Rico has also historically allowed certain winners to remain anonymous, following a law signed in 1989.

See the table below for more information on which states allow lottery winner anonymity:

What Information Will Be Shared?

Fear not; if your win is made public, not all of your personal information will be disclosed. Typically, state lotteries will be required to release your full name, your town or city of residence, the store in which you bought the winning ticket, and the amount of money you won. Sensitive information, such as your social security number, will remain confidential. You can see further examples listed below:

Information that will be disclosed Information that will not be disclosed
Full name Full address
Town or city of residence Date of birth
The name and location of the store that sold the winning ticket. Social Security Number
The prize amount Marital status
Image or likeness Whether you have children/dependents
Profession and wage/salary

Bear in mind that some state lotteries may seek your permission to release further information about you, and it is likely that they will ask you to speak to the media, either via a press conference or a prepared statement. In some states, prizes will not be paid out until such media obligations have been fulfilled.

Form a Trust to Protect Your Identity

Some previous winners have been able to hide their identities by claiming their prize through a trust or other legal entity, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). In these cases, the trust’s name, and sometimes the name of the representative collecting the prize on its behalf, will be disclosed to the public, but the real winner’s identity will be protected.

The rules around claiming through a trust vary by state. Some don’t allow it at all, while others will openly provide guidance on how you can go about it. Some lotteries, such as California, allow you to claim through a trust, but it must be linked to your own name and social security number, so complete anonymity is not guaranteed.

The table below shows which states accept – or have accepted – claims through a trust, and which don’t. You should consult a lawyer and financial advisor if you plan on forming a trust to claim your winnings, as you still need to make sure the correct amount of tax is paid.

Ever wondered if you can stay anonymous in the event of a Powerball jackpot win? Find out which states allow anonymity or publicity.

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A growing number of states are moving to allow the winners of big lottery jackpots to stay anonymous as privacy concerns are increasingly trumping lottery groups’ wishes to publicize winners to boost sales and show that the games are fair.

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Arizona could be the next state to join at least nine others with laws that let winners keep their names secret under a proposal headed to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Four years ago, just five states allowed anonymous winners, and a handful of others allowed trusts to claim prizes.

At least eight state legislatures considered measures shielding winners’ names this year. Virginia’s governor signed legislation allowing winners of $10 million or more to remain anonymous. Proposals in Arkansas and Connecticut failed, while efforts in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon are still being considered.

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New Mexico’s governor last week axed a similar proposal, with a spokesman saying Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham decided to prioritize transparency.

“To be sure, the governor is clear about the concerns raised by proponents, i.e., that certain bad actors could take advantage of lottery winners if their names are made public,” spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said in a statement. But “New Mexicans should have every confidence in the games run by the lottery.”

Arizona’s governor hasn’t weighed in on the proposal before him.

The Arizona Lottery took no official position, but spokesman John Gilliland said “it is important that we have that transparency, because the lottery is nothing without integrity.”

“And the only way the public has an absolute guarantee of integrity as far as real people winning these prizes is to be able to know who wins these prizes,” he said this week.

Republican state Rep. Nancy Barto introduced the measure, saying she wanted to protect winners from harassment. State Rep. John Kavanagh pushed for current law that shields winners’ names for 90 days but said this week that it doesn’t go far enough.

“After 90 days, the person is then subjected to all sorts of people hitting them up for loans, investment advisers trying to make them a client and the potential to be victimized by a burglar or, if it’s a massive amount, having their kid kidnapped,” the Republican said.

Balancing those concerns against the Lottery’s interests in transparency isn’t a close call, he said.

That’s in line with a New Hampshire judge’s decision last year to allow the winner of a nearly $560 million Powerball jackpot to stay anonymous. The woman signed the ticket before she realized that state law would let her create a trust to shield her identity. The judge noted that she could be harassed or solicited for money.

Trusts are allowed in at least two other states besides New Hampshire, while a policy from South Carolina’s lottery board allows anonymity. The winner of a $1.5 billion ticket bought at a South Carolina convenience store last year remains unknown under that policy.

Lottery fraud is a concern. In 2017, a programmer for the Multi-State Lottery Association got up to 25 years in prison for rigging a computer program to enable him to pick winning numbers in games in Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma between 2005 and 2011.

The executive director of the Iowa-based lottery association, which runs the Powerball game in 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, said he understands why some states are moving toward winner secrecy.

“However, the disclosure of winner names is one way lotteries are working to keep the process transparent,” association Executive Director J. Bret Toyne said. “It shows the public that everyday people are randomly winning the prizes.”

At least nine states have laws that letter lottery winners keep their names a secret — and Arizona could join them shortly. ]]>