Lottery winners in the state of New Jersey will now have the choice to remain anonymous. This is following a new law that Governor Phil Murphy signed on Tuesday. This bill passed the state Senate and Assembly without a single dissenting vote earlier this month.
Under the new law, the state lottery commission must set rules and regulations that permit lottery players to keep their identities unknown to the public.
The original resolution, which was signed into law in November of 1969, required winners of large amounts of money to reveal their identities to the public. This has come in the form of press conferences, OPRA requests, and press releases.
“To amend, repeal, or supplement any such rules and regulations from time to time as it deems necessary or desirable, and to establish by regulation that holders of winning tickets or shares may choose to remain anonymous indefinitely and that the identity of a holder choosing such option shall not be included under materials available to public inspection,” the amendment says.
New Jersey isn’t the first state to allow winners to opt for anonymity. They join a growing list of states who also permit privacy, which are Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas. Arizona and Virginia also passed their own privacy bills last year.
Some states allow players to claim prizes anonymously through trusts. While many states have laws that dictate a winner’s name, hometown, and prize amount become public information.
Avoiding the “Lottery Curse”
The New Jersey law’s sponsors say this bill targets a phenomenon that is often referred to as the “lottery curse.”
Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement that the curse often brings about harassment and threats. It usually occurs after winners’ identities are released to the public.
“The winners should have the option of remaining anonymous if they want to stay out of the limelight and away from unwanted attention,” Sweeney said.
Jason Kurland, a New York-based “lottery lawyer,” said that the best advice for new lottery winners is to keep your mouth shut and call a lawyer:
“Don’t advertise it,” Kurland said. “Don’t tell too many people you won. If your name’s out there, everyone comes out. Not only family you haven’t spoken to in a long time, but charities. Mostly good. But some are bogus.”
In 2018, the winner of what was then the eighth biggest jackpot in US history — a $560 million Powerball prize — successfully sued the New Hampshire Lottery for the right to remain anonymous.
The judge in the case said he was in no doubt that the New Hampshire woman, known only as Jane Doe, would be subject to “an alarming amount of harassment, solicitation, and other unwanted communications” should her name be revealed. Her right to privacy “outweighed the public’s interest in the disclosure of her name,” he ruled.
Opponents argue that requiring winners’ names to be available to the public promotes transparency within the industry. And this transparency is supposed to promote the perception that the lottery has integrity. The publicity is also good for business because it puts real faces and names to real winners. Apparent, the attention brought in by a jackpot winner usually results in a large spike in lottery sales for the upcoming draw.
Not Completely Anonymous
Even with the new law, winners of the New Jersey state lottery won’t be flying completely under the radar. Their identity will just be unavailable to the press and the public eye. State agencies will still be able to share their details internally, so they can remove things like outstanding child support payments, public assistance overpayments, and defaulted student loan payments before handing over the earnings.