Commission says it can’t withhold Powerball winner’s name
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s lottery commission will ask a court to dismiss a complaint from a Powerball winner asking for anonymity, arguing that releasing the person’s name and address is required by law, helps ensures transparency and doesn’t put the person’s safety at risk.
The woman who won the $559.7 million jackpot, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, filed a complaint asking that a judge allow her to stay anonymous. The case will be heard Tuesday.
The woman’s lawyer says she signed the back of the ticket following the Jan. 6 drawing, the nation’s eighth-largest lottery jackpot. But after the woman contacted a lawyer, she learned that she could have shielded her identity by writing the name of a trust. The filing says she has set up a trust and plans to contribute a portion of her winnings to charity.
Under New Hampshire law, a lottery winner’s name, town and prize amount are public information. In its petition filed Monday, the lottery commission said it would be compelled to disclose her identity if someone filed a Right to Know request.
Her lawyers argue her privacy interest outweighs the insignificant public interest in disclosing her name. They contend disclosing her identify would put her safety at risk and make her subject to “annoying and harassing calls, emails and visits.”
“As a lottery jackpot winner, Ms. Doe is now part of a small demographic which has historically been victimized by the unscrupulous, often with life-changing or life-threatening consequences,” according to the woman’s complaint.
The commission argues that disclosing the woman’s name and address does not represent “substantial privacy interests” and is consistent with what other lottery winners or anyone “who voluntarily engage a government agency” must do.
It says fears over the woman’s safety are unfounded and that concerns about the jackpot disrupting her life is “the essence of a large jackpot such as Powerball.”
“Petitioners life will be altered whether her name is released or not,” the commission wrote. “Petitioner’s understandable yearning for normalcy after entering a lottery to win hundreds of millions of dollars is not a sufficient basis to shut the public out of the business of government.”
The commission also warns that hiding the woman’s identify could erode trust in the lottery since those who play “have an interest in ensuring that the games played are on the level and the winners are bona fide lottery participants.”
New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that allows trusts to anonymously claim lottery prizes. In 2016, a New Hampshire family that won a $487 million Powerball jackpot remained anonymous as lawyers for their trust claimed it.
In Georgia, lawmakers are considering a bill to allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Democratic Sen. Steve Henson of Stone Mountain, who sponsored the bill, said that protecting the identity of lottery winners is a matter of public safety.