Should Michigan lottery winners of multi-state games have the right to remain anonymous?

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LANSING, Mich. – Most of us probably think about what we would do with the record Powerball jackpot currently at $1.5 billion. Yet, what about some of the headaches that can come along with earning such a big prize, publicly?

Only five states (DE, KS, MD, ND, OH for now) allow multi-state game winners, like Powerball, remain anonymous. However, pending state legislation is working to make Michigan one of those states.

You may remember Three Rivers’ jackpot winner Julie Leach, who took home Michigan’s second largest win at $310 million from the Powerball Sept. 30, 2015. Last October the public got to meet her at her mandatory press conference.

“Everybody wants to hear the story about well what are you going to do, what was it like when you had the sun, and the moon, and the stars drop in your lap and you realized that you never had to work again, that every financial dream you had could come true,” said Jeff Holyfield, Bureau of Michigan Lottery public affairs director.

Well, some have said they want to keep their dreams private. Last May, House Bill 4433 passed the Michigan House of Representatives with wide support (103 yeas, 7 nays). It’s goal is to allow Michigan winners of multi-state games the option of remaining anonymous.

“It’s simply to keep them out of the public limelight,” said State. Rep. Robert VerHeulen, (R) Walker.

The bill now sits in the Michigan Senate. VerHeulen was one of the many state representatives who voted in favor of this pending legislation.

“It was privacy: individual privacy for the winner so that he or she is not harassed by folks that want to share in the winnings,” said VerHeulen.

Holyfield said the Michigan Lottery Bureau disagrees; they believe winners of such large amounts of public funds should be on the record.

“It’s a huge amount of public money, and that’s the whole thinking on it: that it is public money, it should be on the public record,” said Holyfield.

Michigan Lottery games allow winners of $10,000 or greater remain anonymous.

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5 comments

  • Andrew

    The solution is very simple. Multi-state lottery winners who would like to remain private should attend the mandatory press conferences, but refuse to participate with anything that is not already public knowledge. Refuse to answer questions like “What was it like?” or “What are you going to do?”…all of that is nothing more than free promotion for the lottery itself anyway, and nobody has a right to know that information if you do not want to divulge it. The rules say you have to participate, but they don’t say how cooperative you have to be. “My name is X, I am from Y City, and I won $Z. Any other info has to come through my attorney. Thank you.” Make that the extent of the conversation, repeating it over and over again if necessary. If enough people do this, before long they will not even bother making the press conferences mandatory, and we won’t need legislation to protect winners’ privacy. It should always be up to the individual to control the extent to which he or she is willing to relinquish the right to privacy. Public infortmation is one thing, but private information is another matter entirely. Especially when large amounts of money are involved.

  • Villa Libra

    The obligatory publicity of lottery winners, as applies in many parts of the US, would definitely not be welcome here in Britain. British winners can choose to go public or not, and the sad thing is that many of the stories we hear of lottery win problems – family disputes, marriage breakups and so on – often relate to those who announced their win in a blaze of champagne-popping publicity. Anyway, if you’re interested, I’ve recently made up a little free and just-for-fun webpage which aims to generate your own personal “Lucky Numbers” numbers. Who knows, it could work – you just never know your luck. As I say, it is completely free and just for a bit of fun, so look out for VillaLibra Lucky Numbers if you want to check it for yourself.

  • Robbin

    Of course people need to be allowed to remain anonymous. private people win this so called “public money” the government already know they won it. Letting anyone and everyone know you have money is leaving people open to kidnappings, robbery and murder. Let these government agents pulish their addresses and anual income if they don’t see a problem with it!