(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem) and Annette Quijano (D-Union) that would allow lottery winners in New Jersey to stay out of the public eye for a year was approved 76-0-0 on Monday by the Assembly.
“Winning the lottery can be a blessing and a curse. Once their identities become public, lottery winners can become targets for unscrupulous individuals and scam artists looking to get a piece of their winnings. In worst case scenarios, lottery winners have been kidnapped and killed,” said Burzichelli. “Unless the individual wants his or her identity revealed, residents who are lucky enough to win the lottery should have the option to remain private for the sake of their own safety.”
“Many people dream of one day winning the lottery, but the consequences of becoming an instant millionaire, coupled with overnight fame, can be disastrous, and at its worst deadly,” said Quijano. “Not every lottery-winning story ends badly, but there have been enough cases to warrant better safeguards for lottery winners. Lottery winners should have the choice to remain anonymous, and enjoy their lucky streak without worry that their lives and finances will be threatened.”
The bill (A-2982) directs the State Lottery Commission to establish by regulation that lottery winners may remain anonymous for one year, and that the identity of a lottery winner who chooses to remain anonymous not be included in materials available for public inspection during that time.
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’s provisions would not prevent date exchange for the collection of debt in such cases of child support arrears, certain public assistance overpayments, delinquent or defaulted student loan payments delinquent or any other law providing for the collection of debt from lottery winnings.
The Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee released the legislation in September. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.