Editor’s note: An exception to the state law that makes lottery winners’ identity public was omitted from the early version of this story. It is included below.
If any Powerball winners from North Carolina want to avoid publicity, they’re probably out of luck. Most winners of big amounts in the Tar Heel State — and the amounts they win — are public records under state law.
State Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, wants to change that to guard winners’ safety, but he hasn’t had any luck.
Jackson has said his father, Glenn Jackson, won $1 million playing Powerball in 2007 and “got calls from solicitors for months.” His parents ultimately quit answering the telephone unless they recognized the number.
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A General Assembly committee last March killed a Jackson bill that would have required winners’ consent before information about them was released. The N.C. Education Lottery opposed the bill out of concern that the lottery’s credibility could be undermined.
North Carolina law allows lottery winners’ identity to remain confidential only if they have an active protective order against someone or participate in the state’s “Address Confidentiality Program” for victims of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking.
“Being open about who wins prizes helps to hold the state and the lottery accountable, and secrecy about who the winners are could lead to questions about who got the prizes,” lottery spokesman Van Denton told The News & Observer last year.
Most states that have lotteries consider information about winners to be public. In North Carolina, winners’ names, their city or town of residence, the game they played and the amount of money they won are released.
Jackson said he doesn’t plan to try to get his bill passed again this year but might reconsider. His main concern, he said, is that winners might be targets for home invasions, robberies, kidnappings or pleas for financial help.
Jackson said that when he first introduced the bill, he was contacted by winners of large lottery prizes. “They were all, without exception, in favor of the bill and thought they should have at least had that opportunity” to remain anonymous, he said.