Burzichelli Bill to Study Impact of Granting Lottery Winners Anonymity on Transparency, Lottery Sales Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat John Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem) to study whether granting lottery winners in New Jersey anonymity would negatively impact transparency and lottery sales was approved Monday by the Assembly.

The former version of the bill, which gave lottery winners the option to remain anonymous for a year, was approved by both house, but it was conditionally vetoed by the governor. The current version implements the recommendations made by the governor under his conditional veto.

“While I think we had it right the first time, I appreciate the concerns raised by the governor concerning transparency and lottery sales. We certainly don’t want to do anything that may negatively impact one of the state’s most consistent sources of revenue. So in the spirit of compromise, we have revised the bill to first look into what, if any, negative effects granting anonymity to lottery owners may have on the lottery program,” said Burzichelli. “While not every lottery-winning story ends in tragedy, I still believe there is merit to giving lottery winners the option to stay out of the public eye, so I hope that after a review of the potential repercussions, we will be able to give them that option.”

The bill (A-2982) directs the state treasurer to review the disclosure and nondisclosure of lottery winners in New Jersey and other jurisdictions and how nondisclosure affects transparency and lottery sales, and report any findings and recommendations to the governor by the end of the year.

Current regulations allow the State Lottery to use the names, addresses, prize amount and photographs of winners. The address used does not include a street or house number. In addition, a winner’s name, town, and county are available under the Open Public Records Act.

There are numerous stories across the country of lottery winners whose overnight-millionaire stories ended in tragedy. Illinois resident Jeffrey Dampier, who won $20 million in Illinois’ lottery in 1996, was kidnapped and killed by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend who targeted him for money. Abraham Shakespeare won the $31 million jackpot in Florida in 2006. He disappeared in 2009 and his body was found in early 2010 under a concrete slab. A woman who had befriended him and then seized control of his remaining fortune was charged in connection with his murder.

The bill was approved 77-1 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.