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Burzichelli, Holley & Calabrese Bill Allowing State Lottery Winners to Remain Anonymous Gets Final Legislative Approval

To protect the safety of lucky New Jerseyans who win the lottery, Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli, Jamel Holley and Clinton Calabrese sponsored legislation allowing for winners of the State Lottery to remain anonymous. The bill received final legislative approval 74-1 in the full Assembly on Monday.

“While winning the lottery is a dream come true for those lucky individuals who are able to call themselves winners, they are sometimes harassed, both verbally and physically, by family members, friends, acquaintances and others as a result of their newfound wealth and fame,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem). “In some cases, lottery prizes have resulted in winners being robbed and even killed, such as in places like Chicago, Georgia and West Virginia, to name a few. If a lottery winner wishes to remain anonymous, they should have the right to not have their information publicly distributed.”

The bill (A-3616) directs the State Lottery Commission to allow lottery winners in New Jersey to remain anonymous indefinitely.

“With lottery winners being very susceptible targets of crime, from blackmail to kidnapping or worse, it only makes sense to enact legislation that challenges the status quo to better safeguard their anonymity,” said Holley (D-Union). “New Jersey lottery winners should be able to enjoy their winnings without the bombardment of press and other prying eyes that naturally follow when their identity is revealed.”

Current regulations provide that the State Lottery may use names, addresses, prize amount and photographs of winners, but the addresses listed do not include a street or house number. Additionally, under current law, a winner’s name, town and country are available through a formal request under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

This bill would also provide an exemption from such OPRA disclosure.

“We’re living in an age where virtually anything is searchable on the internet,” said Calabrese (D-Bergen, Passaic). “With this mass proliferation of information comes an extreme vulnerability for personal information to be out there and readily available for anyone to see. Making sure lottery winners can remain anonymous is fundamentally necessary to protect New Jersey residents and their privacy.”

There is precedent for a bill such as this one, with states like Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas providing at least some anonymity for lottery winners, while winners in Colorado, Connecticut and Vermont can bypass having their names released by claiming winnings through a trust or a limited liability company.

The bill was approved 39-0 in the Senate on January 9, 2020 and now heads to the Governor’s desk.