Should Michigan lottery winners of multi-state games have the right to remain anonymous?

Posted at 5:19 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 18:44:29-05

LANSING, Mich. – Most of us probably think about what we would do with the record Powerball jackpot currently at $1.5 billion. Yet, what about some of the headaches that can come along with earning such a big prize, publicly?

Only five states (DE, KS, MD, ND, OH for now) allow multi-state game winners, like Powerball, remain anonymous. However, pending state legislation is working to make Michigan one of those states.

You may remember Three Rivers’ jackpot winner Julie Leach, who took home Michigan’s second largest win at $310 million from the Powerball Sept. 30, 2015. Last October the public got to meet her at her mandatory press conference.

“Everybody wants to hear the story about well what are you going to do, what was it like when you had the sun, and the moon, and the stars drop in your lap and you realized that you never had to work again, that every financial dream you had could come true,” said Jeff Holyfield, Bureau of Michigan Lottery public affairs director.

Well, some have said they want to keep their dreams private. Last May, House Bill 4433 passed the Michigan House of Representatives with wide support (103 yeas, 7 nays). It’s goal is to allow Michigan winners of multi-state games the option of remaining anonymous.

“It’s simply to keep them out of the public limelight,” said State. Rep. Robert VerHeulen, (R) Walker.

The bill now sits in the Michigan Senate. VerHeulen was one of the many state representatives who voted in favor of this pending legislation.

“It was privacy: individual privacy for the winner so that he or she is not harassed by folks that want to share in the winnings,” said VerHeulen.

Holyfield said the Michigan Lottery Bureau disagrees; they believe winners of such large amounts of public funds should be on the record.

“It’s a huge amount of public money, and that’s the whole thinking on it: that it is public money, it should be on the public record,” said Holyfield.

Michigan Lottery games allow winners of $10,000 or greater remain anonymous.