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If you win millions in the NC lottery, can you keep it a secret?

Powerball privacy a long shot in N.C.

If eventual Powerball winners from North Carolina want to avoid publicity, they're out of luck. Winners of big dollar amounts in the Tar Heel state – and the amounts they win – are public records under state law. Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County
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If eventual Powerball winners from North Carolina want to avoid publicity, they're out of luck. Winners of big dollar amounts in the Tar Heel state – and the amounts they win – are public records under state law. Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County

A woman in New Hampshire is suing that state’s lottery commission in a fight to preserve her anonymity after she won $560 million last month.

It’s a legal battle she’d likely lose in North Carolina, where you’d be out of luck if you were hoping to keep your name private after winning.

In New Hampshire, the woman claimed she mistakenly signed her name on her winning Powerball ticket, making her identity public information. Had she signed the ticket in a trust, she could’ve kept her name a secret, according to the Union Leader.

In North Carolina, information for winners of prizes of $600 or greater is public record under state law. That includes the winner’s name, their city or town, the game they played, the date of the claim, and how much they won.

The state doesn’t make other information public, such as a winner’s address or phone number, said North Carolina Education Lottery spokesperson Van Denton.

“That openness and transparency is important to a lottery so that the public believes that the game is being run fairly,” Denton said. “If no one knew who won prizes, then that could lead to questions about are the games being run fairly.”

Under state law, a trust wouldn’t keep someone’s name secret in North Carolina either, Denton said. Winners can claim a prize as a trust, but the beneficiaries of the trust would still be named.

One route someone could take in North Carolina to remain anonymous after winning the lottery is through a protective order. However such orders would have already been in place for a victim of a crime such as domestic violence. A winner wouldn’t be able to seek an order because of winning a major lottery prize, Denton said.

There have been attempts to add more privacy options for lottery winners. A bill that would’ve required winners’ consent for information was killed in a General Assembly committee a few years ago.

If you find yourself winning a major lottery prize in North Carolina, Denton said, the NCEL will work to help make the transition a smooth process. He also noted no winner is obligated to do interviews or pose for photos.

LaVendrick Smith: @LaVendrickS

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