Lottery Winners Deserve Privacy Too, Says NJ Lawmaker [AUDIO]
Arguably, no one is happier than a person holding a winning lottery ticket, but probably no one is sadder than a lottery winner who quickly goes broke because they were scammed, overly generous or just plain stupid with their new found money.
There's legislation in New Jersey that would give lottery winners a one-year layer of protection from the prying public.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli's bill directs the State Lottery Commission to provide by regulation that lottery winners may remain anonymous for one year.
Currently the State Lottery may immediately use the names, home towns, prize amount and photographs of winners. A winner's name, town, and county are also available through a formal request under the Open Public Records Act. The bill also provides an exemption from such disclosure for the same one-year period.
"If you win the lottery and you have a lot of unwanted attention from people you don't know, the potential to be scammed, to be abused probably becomes greater during that early period," explains Burzichelli. "A winner is not necessarily going to be prepared for the onslaught of attention that's going to come if their name is immediately released. It is a life-changing event."
Many lottery winners would like to remain anonymous forever, but the statute that originally allowed New Jersey to have a lottery included a provision that winners must be identified. The reason behind the clause is to ensure transparency and preserve the integrity of the lottery.
Referring to his legislation,. Burzichelli says, "This idea is designed to give people some shield and some protection from unwanted attention at least for a year's period of time to give the individual a chance to get their feet under them and be better prepared to handle what will come when the public knows that they have won this great deal of money."
Lottery winner horror stories have been around for years. In 2002, Jack Whittaker won $315 million in a Powerball drawing. He developed a drinking problem, had money stolen, frequented strip clubs and is now living on social security checks.
Bud Post won over $16 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1969. His ex-girlfriend sued him for part of the winnings, his brother hired a hit man to kill Bud so he could get the inheritance and he gave away millions to greedy residents. Bud died last year. He was almost $1 million in debt.
The so-called "Lottery Curse" isn't unique to America. In Great Britain, Callie Rogers won the equivalent of roughly $2 million U.S. dollars. She blew through all of it in just six years by going on expensive vacations, spending lavishly on shopping sprees and getting breast implants. Rogers, a single mom, now works as a maid.