Cumberland Times-News

June 25, 2013

No secrets

Identities of lottery winners should be made public

Cumberland Times-News

— If you win a big lottery prize in West Virginia or Pennsylvania your identity is automatically made public. But win a lottery jackpot in Maryland and you can remain anonymous.

We think that is wrong. State lotteries involve public funds and because of that disclosure laws should be in place just as they are for any other matter handled by the government.

Maryland’s anonymity policy for lottery winners was in the spotlight again Monday when it was revealed that a Garrett County couple won the $1 million top prize from the lottery agency’s Double Dollar Fortune scratch-off game. The couple asked not to be publicly identified.

Nonsensically, the state lottery agency distributed a photo to the media showing the two winners holding a faux $1 million check, but with their faces hidden.

Forty-three states and the District of Columbia operate a lottery. Only six — Maryland, Delaware, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio and North Dakota — allow winners to remain anonymous.

Many state officials believe revealing the names of winners adds to the lottery’s credibility. "People like to see the people who are actually winning," Katy Smith, a spokeswoman from the Oklahoma Lottery, told USA Today. "If we don't let people know people are winning, then that raises questions."

Mike Lang, an Illinois Lottery spokesman, agrees and says winners in his state must come forward publicly "unless there is a compelling reason not to."

USA Today said among the exceptions are  examples in Illinois and North Carolina, where people with restraining orders and other extreme cases can remain anonymous. In Florida, law enforcement officers can be kept secret.

When public money is involved, there is no place for routine secrecy. We encourage the Maryland General Assembly to add Maryland to the long list of other states that divulge to their citizenry the identify of people raking in lottery jackpots.