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January 16, 2014

Lottery privacy bill an early loser

Greenwood senator pledges to refile next year.

INDIANAPOLIS — If you won millions in the Hoosier Lottery, would you want to keep it secret?

That the question an Indiana lawmaker was hoping his colleagues would consider with a bill that would give lottery winners the choice of anonymity, with the goal of helping them protect their sudden fortunes from scam artists, unscrupulous financial planners and greedy relatives.

“You wouldn’t believe the people who come out of the woodwork when they hear someone has come into a large sum of money,” said state Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, who filed the bill to grant lottery winners privacy.

His legislation hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing, though, and likely won’t be. The chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, has signaled he won’t hear the bill this during this year’s short session, essentially killing it. Alting declined to say why.

Waltz seems undeterred and pledged to file the bill again next year. He wants Indiana to join the six states that currently allow lottery winners to keep their identities secret from the public.

It’s an issues arising other states: In recent months, lawmakers in Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have pushed measures to protect winners’ privacy.

In some states, lottery officials object to closing off public access to winners’ names, arguing that the publicity gained from announcing winners helps drive sales. They also contend that releasing winners’ names reduces suspicion that the games are fixed to benefit insiders.

State lottery officials in Indiana declined to comment publicly on Waltz’s proposal. Hoosier Lottery spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said lottery officials would comply with whatever legislative changes may come.

Under current law, the Hoosier Lottery collects information from those who win $600 or more. Winners are required to complete a claim form, some of which is considered public record, including the winner’s name, hometown and the place where the lucky ticket was purchased.

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