Lottery-winner secrecy bill headed to Idaho House floor
BOISE, IDAHO Lottery winners in Idaho would be allowed to hide their identities under legislation headed to the House floor.
The House State Affairs Committee approved legislation Wednesday to keep the names of individuals who win $600 or more secret. While the bill would allow winners to give written authorization to the lottery to publicize their names, the proposal also prevents those names from being released under public records requests for six months after the prize is claimed. Republican Rep. Lynn Luker, of Boise, says the change is necessary to protect the privacy of winners.
“I’m here because of an elderly lady who called me …expressing her deep frustration and fear after having a lucky day,” Luker said. “It was almost immediately that she began getting phone calls from all over the country trying to sell her something or otherwise separate her from her winnings.”
Luker said he has verified the identity of the woman who contacted him, but added that the woman refused to testify before the panel out of fear of continued harassment.
However, officials with the Idaho Lottery say the bill invites public suspicion at a time when the lottery has been the subject of increased scrutiny over the years. Others testified that making those names secret increases the chances of cheating, as well making it nearly impossible to know if the lottery is handing prizes to individuals as favors.
“Transparency is important. Idahoans want to know if Idahoans are actually winning the lottery,” said Skip Smyser, a former House representative and current lobbyist for the Idaho Press Club.
Lottery Director Jeff Anderson said that his department has received few complaints of harassment after their prizes have been announced. Furthermore, Idaho has few big winners and therefore those individuals are unlikely to be the target of scammers hoping to pressure someone to give them their winnings.
There have been just seven winners in Idaho who have won a prize $10 million or more since the lottery’s inception in 1987. The majority of lottery participants win prizes worth less than a $1 million.
“Currently, when people play the lottery, they’re playing a public game,” said Jeff Anderson, director of the state’s lottery.
Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina allow winners to remain anonymous. A growing number of other states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, will award prizes to a trust and allow a trustee — such as an attorney — to collect without disclosing the name of the ticket holder.
HB 95 passed the committee after little debate on Wednesday and two Democratic members opposed. The bill must now clear the full House and the Senate before it can head to the governor’s desk for approval.