Why New York doesn’t allow anonymous lottery winners
Lottery winners are money in the bank for the states that run the games.
The policy of requiring lottery winners to be identified before getting their checks is due to two major factors: transparency, so the public knows who’s taking home millions of public dollars, and as a valuable public relations tool, experts said.
“If someone hits for a half-billion dollars, it’s a great way to make the public aware these opportunities are out there,” said John Cirillo, publicist for Empire City Casino in Yonkers. “It’s lots of PR and free advertising. And you want to stage it to the maximum, ultimate possibilities.”
Only a handful of states, such as Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina, allow winners to remain anonymous.
A New Hampshire judge ruled in March that a Powerball winner has the right to remain Jane Doe. But the majority of states require winners to be identified.
“For transparency, people need to know it’s not shady,” said Alex Traverso, former assistant deputy director of the California Lottery. “It’s not set up that you have an algorithm or know someone working within the state to win.”
When people win big at Empire City, Cirillo says, the casino asks the gamblers’ permission to be identified.
They have a similar quandary to the lottery, in which a desire for PR is weighed against privacy. “When someone has such an exciting moment in their life, you usually want to share it with the world,” he said. “But it’s a case-by-case situation.
“Some people are concerned that all their long-lost relatives will emerge from the back streets looking to get a piece of the pie,” Cirillo said.
Cirillo asks all the big winners for permission to be named — and it’s about a 50-50 call.