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Kavanagh: Keeping lottery winners’ names private would protect them

Rep. John Kavanagh (File Photo)

A state lawmaker wants to keep the names of lottery winners private, saying the change would protect them from criminals and scam artists.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said his inspiration for HB 2082 is Matthew Good, a Fountain Hills resident who split a $587.5 million Powerball jackpot in November.

Lottery officials said Good wished to remain anonymous but released his name in response to a public records request from The Associated Press. By law, the names of Arizona Lottery winners of $600 or more are public record upon request.

“It’s just gossip-type curiosity that only harms the person,” Kavanagh said in an interview. “I think people would be more inclined to enter these events if in fact they knew their names would be confidential and their lives wouldn’t be so disrupted.”

Under Kavanagh’s bill, lottery winners would have the option of waiving anonymity.

Lottery winners’ names are kept private in Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota and Ohio, according to the Arizona Lottery.

The House Committee on Government endorsed Kavanagh’s bill on Tuesday by a 7-2 vote, forwarding it to the floor by way of the Rules Committee.

David Bodney, a media attorney and partner with the Phoenix law firm Steptoe & Johnson, told the committee that the change would harm the ability of the news media and citizens to monitor state government.

“If one chooses to participate, and if you’re not prepared to let the public know you won, then don’t play,” he said.

Daniel Barr, an attorney in media law and partner with the Phoenix law firm Perkins Coie, said in an interview that a public enterprise awarding hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds isn’t “gossipy news.”

“Here you have the public interest in knowing who gets the lottery money and how lottery funds are distributed, and that is very high,” he said. “The person’s privacy interest in something they willingly participate in is very low.”

Jeff Hatch-Miller, the Arizona Lottery’s executive director, said in an interview that most winners of prizes large enough to warrant a trip to lottery offices ask that their names not be released.

“We offer them the choice of anonymity or publicity, but most of them are very private people,” he said. “We won’t release any information, and we can’t under law, but we will if requested.”

While he said the Arizona Lottery is officially neutral on the bill, Hatch-Miller added, “I think the players want this bill and most would love to be anonymous.”

Reps. Martin J. Quezada, D-Avondale, and Thomas Forese, R-Gilbert, voted against the bill in committee.

Quezada said many of the concerns Kavanagh raised can be addressed by not playing the lottery.

“I think at the end of the day this is about open government, and I think that we should be striving to ensure that our government is as open as possible,” he said.

Forese said he was worried about how the law may eventually be applied by the Arizona Lottery as well as the idea of managing a government body with anything less than “complete transparency.”

Kavanagh told the committee that there are many other cases in which an individual’s information is kept private, including students, patients and domestic violence victims. Lottery winners deserve the same consideration, he said.

“I’m simply asking that these … souls be spared the public safety problems and the annoyance and harassment problems that come with having their names revealed,” he said.

States with confidentiality:

• Delaware
• Kansas
• Maryland
• North Dakota
• Ohio

3 comments

  1. As rightly pointed by Rep. Quezada, this is a publicly run lottery that has a lot of moving parts. Without the government’s involvement, the lottery would not be possible. Despite private money being wagered, the lottery isn’t like a private casino determining its rules. We employ hundreds of people to work at the lottery and handle the disbursement of winnings. Without other states participating in the Powerball or Megamillions, you wouldn’t have jackpots of hundreds of millions of dollars that entice people to play the lottery who otherwise might not play it.

    Because one individual wins in Fountain Hills, Mr. Kavanagh thinks he has to “protect” this person from harassment. We should all be so lucky to be “harassed” because we split a $500 million jackpot. This person chose to play the game that is being run by government. That person doesn’t have to play the game. He can go to a casino and play similar games if he wants to try to win large sums of money. In Pennsylvania a number of years ago, there was fraud with the weighting of the balls picked for the winning numbers.

    Mr. Bodney brought out so many great points about the “public’s” right to know who wins the lottery. I couldn’t agree with him more on all of his points. This legislation was poorly thought through and needs to be defeated. We have public records for a reason, and that’s to protect the public from fraud by government officials. It occurs all the time and with this type of money at stake, why should we trust the government to handle that money without anyone trying to cheat the system?

    It’s funny and ironic, that conservative Republicans who rail against big government and the lack of trust we should have in it, in this case say we can trust the lottery that is operated by government to be operated correctly and that everything is on the up-and-up. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    Thank you Reps. Forese and Quezada for standing up for open government and not getting sucked into this so-called “feel good” legislation and protection of private citizens from harassment. “If you don’t play, you can’t win,” as the Lottery says. But then, if you don’t play, you don’t have to worry about being “harassed”.

  2. I hope it goes through. A person should have the choice to play and win and remain anonymous. In this day and age when all someone needs is a first name and city to find out anything about you and your family? I say let winners remain anonymous.

    I pray it goes through and I win a huge multi-multi million $ lotto jackpot during that time. Then if there is a problem with players claiming anonymously, they can change it back. LOL!

  3. This guy rants on and on about transparency, because this is a government function, but the hypocrite doesn’t mind that the Guy who bragged bragged that he would be Mr. Transparency, BaraK Obama, is Mr. Anti Transparency.
    The Guy who has spent more than 3 million dollars to stop “”EVERYONE”" from seeing his real Birthcertificate, School grades, collage grades, college papers, his mothers Passports, his fathers passports, his half sisters passports, “”ALL the papers and documentation on the ‘Fast and Furious’ murders(more than 300 Mexican people), all the paperwork on the Bengazie Ambassitor butchering, while he watched or went out to raise more campaign money.

    All Obama’s dealing with home grown gangsters and thugs, home grown terrorist who bombed people to death aka William Ayars of the weathermen, Tony Resko, Twice convicted (France & Austria of stock market insider trading) George Soros, getting special deals made for tax cheating Birkshire Hathaway(Warren Buffet, of over 1 billion dollars.

    I sure hope it goes thur. If Obama don’t have to show any transparency, then surely none of these winners should be subjected to this injustic.

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