Can Lottery Winners Remain Anonymous?
Yes, but the list of states that allow it isn’t very long.
In this article, we’ll show you which US states let lottery winners stay anonymous. We’ll also talk about why most states don’t allow it, and what measures you can take to protect your privacy in case you do win.
What States Allow Anonymous Lottery Winners?
Apparently, just a handful. Only 9 US states allow lottery winners to protect their privacy and stay anonymous. Those are Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, and Texas.
Some states have different rules. For some lotteries, only winners of prizes over a certain threshold are allowed to remain anonymous. Check out the table below for more details.
States that allow lottery winners to remain anonymous
|State||Who can stay anonymous?|
|Arizona||Winners of prizes $100,000 and above|
|Georgia||Winners of prizes $250,000 and above|
|North Dakota||All winners|
|South Carolina||All winners|
|Texas||Winners of prizes $1 million and above|
Take note that in Arizona, lottery winners of prizes $600 and above also have the option to remain anonymous – albeit temporarily. Their names and identities are kept private for 90 days after the prize is awarded, and only made public knowledge after that time period is up.
States that do NOT allow lottery winners to remain anonymous
All other states not included in the previous list either do not have a state lottery, or require winners’ identities to be released to the public. This includes their name and usually, their photo.
However, there have been some exceptions in the past. Take a look at some special cases where a lottery winner was granted an exception and got to collect their prize while keeping their name secret:
- In New Hampshire, a woman filed a lawsuit against the state’s lottery commission in order to keep her identity off public record. She was the $560 million jackpot winner from the January 6, 2018 Powerball drawing. After a short trial, she was allowed by the ruling judge to remain anonymous and was only required to disclose the name of her hometown, Merrimack. The judge ruled in her favor citing that disclosing her name would jeopardize her safety, and that the Powerball numbers were drawn in Florida anyway.
- In Oregon, a man from Iraq who purchased his lottery ticket from a third-party website won $6.4 million from the August 24, 2015 Megabucks drawing. Months later, he was able to travel to the lottery headquarters in Salem where he collected his earnings. After speaking with the lottery director, he was also given the opportunity to stay anonymous to protect his safety when he returned home.
Why Can’t Lottery Winners Remain Anonymous?
The reason is quite simple. Announcing winners’ identities gives players the assurance that the game isn’t fixed and that real, everyday people have a shot at winning. It’s a layer of transparency that is integral to the success of the game. With confidence in the lottery, more people are inclined to play, which in turn produces more excitement about the game, bigger jackpots to be won, and more significant contributions to society – the goal of all US lotteries.
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, when asked to explain why he voted against passing a lottery anonymity bill in his state, said it best:
“This bill could undermine the transparency that provides taxpayers confidence in the integrity of the lottery and its games. Moreover, the bill could have the unintended consequence of reducing lottery sales by hampering marketing efforts and the public excitement generated when lottery winners are announced.”
What Can Lottery Winners Do to Protect Their Privacy?
There are some ways that let players protect their identities when playing the lottery. Here are some of them:
- Claim your winnings through a trust or other legal entity. This is a common practice in states that do allow it, which includes Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. The idea is to first set up a trust and then request the lottery to award the winnings to said trust. Ask for help from a lottery lawyer on how to do this, if whether or not it’s plausible in your state, and if there are other ways you can protect yourself and your money.
- Wait for the hype to die down a bit. In most states, winners have 6 months to a full year to claim their prize. Be warned, however. This strategy isn’t always effective as sometimes, the closer to the deadline you wait, the more buzz around the uncollected prize money there is.
- Participate in group play or syndicates. Playing with others can also be a way to minimize your risk and exposure. Your name is less likely to make headlines and you’ll be increasing your chances of winning as a bonus. The drawback, of course, is that you’ll end up winning less.
- You can also enlist the service of a third-party lottery website when playing. These sites aren’t in the limelight as often as official lotteries are, and some of these services will allow you to stay anonymous completely. You can check out our list of recommended lottery sites for more specifics.
A lottery winner got her $264 million, but it might cost her the chance to remain anonymous
The mysterious winner of a $560 million lottery ticket in New Hampshire has finally claimed her prize, through her legal team, but she is still fighting to keep her identity a secret.
William Shaheen, a lawyer for the woman who has thus far remained anonymous, accepted the check for a lump sum of $352 million, about $264 million after taxes, reports said.
The first thing he did was give a total of about $249,000 to a couple of nonprofits – Girls Inc. and three chapters of End 68 Hours of Hunger – and said the woman plans to give away as much as $50 million in the future.
“She realizes how lucky she is,” said Shaheen, according to USA Today. “My client doesn’t want any accolades, she doesn’t want any credit. She just wants to do good things.”
Little is known about the woman, who won the Powerball in January and has asked a judge to let her stay anonymous. She is from southern New Hampshire. The judge who is weighing whether her privacy interests outweigh the state’s lottery rules ruled that the prize money could be awarded while he considers the case, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
New Hampshire lottery rules require the winner’s name, town and amount won be available for public information, in accordance with open-records laws and to increase trust in the lottery system. Attorneys for the state and the lottery commission have argued that the woman should not be allowed to exempt herself from the rules. The state Attorney General’s Office said the woman’s name must be revealed because she signed the back of the ticket, USA Today reported.
New Hampshire lottery executive director Charlie McIntyre said that the Powerball winner must abide by the disclosure laws “like any other,” in February.
“While we respect this player’s desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols,” the statement said.
In court documents, the lottery winner asked a judge to allow the lottery winnings to be paid to a designated trust that keeps her anonymous. But lottery officials have argued that even if the cash goes into a trust, the ticket will have to be submitted in its original form – complete with the ticket buyer’s name and home town.
Her lawyers have argued that she is part of a group that “has historically been victimized by the unscrupulous,” and that she made a mistake by signing her name on the ticket, when if she had set up an anonymous trust, she would have been able to avoid identifying herself in that way.
A lawsuit filed by her lawyers says she is an “engaged community member” who wants to go about public life “without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.”
Other lottery winners have realized that every ticket buyer’s fantasy can quickly morph into a nightmare. There are myriad self-inflicted problems that can befall a person who suddenly comes into great wealth. Several have gambled their winnings away, including a two-time lottery winner who ended up living in a trailer.
Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who won $31 million in 1997, told his financial adviser shortly before his suicide that “winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
And there are numerous examples of people who’ve tried to swindle lottery winners out of their newly acquired cash – or take the money by force.
In 2015, Craigory Burch Jr., the winner of a $434,272 jackpot in Georgia, was killed in his home by seven masked men who kicked in his front door. His family members said the public announcement of the lottery winnings had made him a target.
Abraham Shakespeare, the winner of a $30 million lottery prize in 2006, was approached two years later by a woman who said she was writing a book about how people were taking advantage of him, became his financial adviser and slowly siphoned away his money.
“She got every bit of his money,” Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner said in closing arguments. “He found out about it and threatened to kill her. She killed him first.”A lottery winner got her $264 million, but it might cost her the chance to remain anonymous The mysterious winner of a $560 million lottery ticket in New Hampshire has finally claimed her prize, ]]>