Raleigh, N.C. — Big lottery winners would be able to keep their names out of public view under a bill the House Judiciary III Committee is considering.
The measure, House Bill 30, would make the names of winners confidential unless they gave permission for release. Committee members did not vote on bill Wednesday but said they would like decide on it next week.
"At least six states allow confidentiality," said Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, who said he has heard from lottery winners who favor the bill.
None, Jackson said, have said they have been in danger because their names have become public. Rather, he said, winners wanted to be able to continue with their normal lives.
"They didn't want scam artists, churches and charities coming after them," he said.
The measure faced opposition from lottery officials, who said they have been able to uncover fraud because people had recognized a wrongful lottery winner in the media and tipped off the lottery's security office. Also, lottery officials said, the bill would prevent them from answering basic questions that might come from people owed money by lottery winners.
Lottery general counsel Quan Kirk gave the example of a group of people who bought a ticket jointly. If the group suspected they had been cheated by the individual holding the ticket, they would have to go to court to find out if the ticket-holder had claimed the prize.
"Under this, we can't confirm or deny the person claimed the prize," Kirk said.
Van Denton, a spokesman for the lottery, said keeping winners confidential cuts against the spirit of why people play the game.
"Who would want to play a game if they don't know who the winner is?" Denton asked.
In addition to the lottery, both the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters and the North Carolina Press Association oppose the bill, saying it takes information out of public view.
Committee members were split over the measure.
Some sided with Jackson, saying that it was appropriate to protect lottery winners.
Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said the winner's security was "more important than the advertisement for the the lottery."
Others, however, pointed out the lottery was a government agency and should be transparent about how it disposes of its money.
"If you've got a government agency handing someone $50 million, I'd like to know who got it," said Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven.
At the end of the meeting, members were discussing a possible compromise that would allow winners to request anonymity. There is currently a procedure for domestic violence victims to make such a request, and a potential amendment would expand the reasons a person could make such a request.
That amendment could be heard next week.