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Private or public? Bill would scratch off public disclosure of lottery winners' names

Someone in Michigan won a $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot last month. We may never know who because The Wolverine State is one of 11 that allows some lottery prize winners to be remain anonymous.

If that were a Minnesotan, everyone could have found out who may have quit their job the next day and took off to some exotic locale where the February temperature is above zero.

Current state statute requires lottery officials to publicly disclose a prize winner’s name, city of residence, prize amount and where the ticket was purchased. Their phone number and address may remain private.

Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL-Eden Prairie) sponsors HF832 that would add a winner’s name to the private information list.

Approved 13-0 Friday by the House Sate Government Finance and Elections Committee, its next stop is the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee. Its companion, SF151, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), awaits action by the full Senate.

“With technology the way it is, it’s certainly much easier to find a lot of information about anyone, and oftentimes more information than they may want shared,” Kotyza-Witthuhn said.

She noted lottery winners across the country have been robbed; some killed. Kotyza-Witthuhn referenced an article indicating people should buy a ticket in a state that permits a winner to remain anonymous, such as North Dakota.

Adam Prock, executive director of the Minnesota Lottery, said steps continue to be proactively taken to limit privacy concerns. This can include using just a winner’s first name on social media, local media statements and website content.

“Winners are not required to have their photo taken, share their stories or participate in news conferences if they choose not to,” he said. “… The lottery works closely with all winners on a case-by-case basis to ensure their needs are met, including winners who choose to maintain a very low profile.”

However, by releasing some information, lottery officials can show winners come from across the state, which, in turn, increases player confidence and helps reiterate that most money spent on the lottery is returned as prizes.

“The balance between lottery integrity and player security is something that we consider every day,” Prock said. “Both are vital to our mission as a state agency.”


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