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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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2/28/2013 9:22:00 AM
New law would allow lottery winners to remain anonymous

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Those who hope to scratch or pick their way to riches may soon get some protection from family and friends and foes.

On a 5-2 vote Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Energy and Military approved a measure allowing future Lottery winners to keep their names and addresses confidential. Instead, HB 2082 would provide only for the release of the winner's home town.

With the measure already having cleared the House on a wide margin, it requires only the vote of the full Senate and the signature of the governor to become law.

But David Bodney, attorney for The Arizona Republic, is not yet ready to give up.

Having been rebuffed at every turn so far, Bodney is offering a compromise he wants considered by the full Senate: Give Lottery winners 10 days of confidentiality to arrange their affairs -- and get whatever financial or physical protection for themselves and their families they need -- before the names are released.

Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, suggested perhaps one year would be more appropriate, citing the experience of a friend who had won 15 years ago.

"A week later he was bombarded,' Meza said. "It was actually relatives who were nonstop asking him for money.'

Then came the calls from those offering investments.

"I think that's too much time,' Bodney responded of that proposal. He said that as long as the state runs the Lottery, there's a need for maximum transparency.

"Public accountability, giving folks the sense that it wasn't somebody's in-law or nephew or cousin of a member of the Lottery commission who keeps winning these awards is essential because it protects against misconduct and cronyism and all that kind of stuff,' he told lawmakers.

But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who crafted the legislation, said that's based on the false premise that these are public dollars in the first place.

He argued that the Lottery involves private individuals gambling their money. Kavanagh said a computer determines the winning numbers, with some of those funds going back in winnings and the balance going to the state for various programs.

None of that, he said, is reason to create problems for those lucky enough to win.

"I want to shield winners from the annoyance and maybe even the harassment of everybody knowing who they are and hitting them up for money wherever they go,' he said.

"How much money we make, how much we're worth is, for the most part, private,' Kavanagh continued. "You don't go to a cocktail party and tell people that.'

He conceded, though, that if the winner drives up to the party in a new Porsche "that's another issue.'

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, agreed to support the measure. But he said that, whatever the outcome of the legislation, Lottery winners need to understand that nothing will ever be the same.

"People need to understand when they win that there are consequences,' he said. "And it's not all pleasant.'

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Keep It Private

This bill I totally agree with. When I hit the lottery big, I didn't want any one to know. It was my personal buck or two and it is taxed. The newspaper be danged. They don't need to be broadcasting my legal life and my legal winnings from a personal bet. More people would play if they know their identity will be protected. As it is now, you have to hire an armed guard 24/7 and carry just to keep the beggars away.

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