Virginia Allows Anonymity for Jackpot Winners
On July 1st, 2019, certain lottery jackpot winners in Virginia will be allowed to remain anonymous thanks to a new bill signed into law last month. Governor Ralph Northam approved the amendment of state legislation to include senate bill S-1060, which prohibits the Virginia Lottery from disclosing any information about lottery winners who win $10 million or more.
The news comes only months after neighboring West Virginia amended its laws, allowing lottery winners of $1 million or more to remain anonymous. The West Virginia bill, however, stipulated that winners are only eligible for anonymity if they give five percent of their winnings to the State Lottery Fund.
Prior to S-1060 being passed, it was mandatory in Virginia under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the winner’s name, hometown and the amount won. Lottery publicity rules differ from state to state, with arguments for both sides - making anonymity a tricky subject for lottery fans and legislators.
Why Would Lottery Winners Want To Remain Anonymous?
The upwelling of interest and support in anonymity laws can be partially attributed to concerns about crime and personal safety. There have been several documented reports across the U.S. of lottery winners being targeted by criminals – robbed, injured and sometimes even killed on account of their lottery win.
Some legislators, however, fear that anonymity laws might have adverse effects. Gov. Chris Christie blocked a New Jersey proposal to grant anonymity to lottery winners in 2013, citing concerns that anonymity would “undermine the [lottery’s] transparency”, and also even hinder sales.
The States That Allow Lottery Anonymity
Nonetheless, anonymity has found favour with the public and lawmakers alike; before Virginia’s law change, nine states already allowed outright anonymity: Delaware, Texas, South Carolina, Ohio, North Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, West Virginia and Maryland. Georgia allows anonymity, but with caveats: winners of $250,000 or more can be granted anonymity for 90 days, after which information on them can be requested by the public. Winners in Puerto Rico have also historically been allowed anonymity on occasion.
New Jersey is the next in line to consider changing their regulations on the lottery, despite a 2013 defeat; bill S-2267 could soon find its way into state law, allowing indefinite anonymity for any lottery winner of any prize amount.
Thirty-three jurisdictions, including Puerto Rico and Washington DC, allow a more convoluted method of staying anonymous after a big lottery win; winners can set up trusts through which to receive their winnings. The trust’s name would be disclosed to the public, but not the trust’s beneficiaries. Each jurisdiction’s laws differ with regard to this practice.
$1.5 Billion to An Anonymous Winner
Earlier this year, a South Carolina woman took advantage of the anonymity law after claiming $1.5 billion in the largest single-ticket jackpot win in history – a jackpot total second only to a Powerball jackpot from 2016. The anonymous winner left her winnings unclaimed for 3 months, as she consulted lawyers about her best course of action. She made a public statement acknowledging her “tremendous social responsibility”, and outlining the recipients of her first charitable donations.
If you live in one of the states that grant anonymity, you can rest assured that your identity, and your Powerball winnings, are safe – unless you choose to reveal it, that is. As for the states that don’t: there may be other ways to secure your anonymity! To learn more about the legislation in your area, take a look at this breakdown of Powerball information by state.
Page Last Updated: 09/04/2019 12:52:04