State Politics

Lottery secrecy bill draws fire in NC House panel

Warren Liles, left, and Maxine Thomas restock some of the scratch-off lottery tickets as people play the N.C. Education Lottery at C Mini Mart on Poole Road in Raleigh on March 2, 2015. This store is one of the top sellers of lottery tickets in the area. There is discussion as to whether lottery winners should be allowed to remain anonymous.
Warren Liles, left, and Maxine Thomas restock some of the scratch-off lottery tickets as people play the N.C. Education Lottery at C Mini Mart on Poole Road in Raleigh on March 2, 2015. This store is one of the top sellers of lottery tickets in the area. There is discussion as to whether lottery winners should be allowed to remain anonymous. cseward@newsobserver.com

Legislation to allow lottery winners to remain anonymous proved controversial in a House committee Wednesday, and legislators from both parties are looking for a compromise.

Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, wants the N.C. Education Lottery to keep the names of its biggest winners private – unless the winner chooses to publicly receive the oversized check. He says he’s concerned that technology makes it too easy to track down people’s information, and that winners are used to generate interest in the games.

“I think the choice should be theirs,” Jackson told legislators Wednesday. “Many (lottery winners) talk about the difficulties it created. They didn’t want scam artists, churches and charities coming after them.”

But other House members on the committee – as well as leaders of the N.C. Education Lottery – didn’t agree. “It does take away all of the transparency,” said Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican. “I want to know who won, and I want to know that it was a legitimate person.”

Speciale, who said he’s familiar with organized crime as a Chicago native, added that he wants to be sure winnings “didn’t go to Tony Two-Fingers.”

The committee postponed a vote on the bill, which would affect winners of prizes of $600 or more, until at least next week. Several legislators are working on a compromise. One idea would change Jackson’s opt-in provision to an opt-out: Instead of keeping winners confidential automatically, Republican Rep. Craig Horn wants winners to fill out a form if they want anonymity.

Rep. Duane Hall, a Raleigh Democrat, suggested a plan that would allow winners to stay in the shadows longer – while eventually having their names made public. “That would give the winner the opportunity to take advantage of some of the training the lottery offers” on financial planning, security and other matters, Hall said.

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