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Lottery Winner Fights State Law To Keep Identity Private

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you won the lottery, would you want to keep it a secret and stay anonymous?

That’s what a woman who won more than half a billion dollars is fighting to do, but you might be surprised that most states, including Pennsylvania, do not protect the privacy of lottery winners.

In January, a woman in New Hampshire won $560 million in the Powerball lottery. She signed the back of her ticket, but didn’t realize that when she signed it, her name was about to go public.

Her lawyers sued the Lottery Commission, attempting to keep her identity private, in part, because they say her safety would be in jeopardy.

New Hampshire Lottery officials argued the state’s right-to-know law allowed them to reveal her name.

A judge ruled Monday the woman can keep her identity private because the judge had no doubt that she would suffer an alarming amount of harassment and solicitation.

You might be surprised to know the Pennsylvania Lottery wouldn’t protect your privacy either.

“As in most states, Pennsylvania Lottery winners cannot remain anonymous and certain winner information is made public under the state’s Open Records law. This assures the public that Lottery winners are real people and that the Lottery operates with integrity and transparency,” the Lottery said.

At one point, former state Rep. Ted Harhai, of Westmoreland County, tried to challenge that. He twice introduced legislation that would have allowed lottery winners to keep their identities private, but it never went anywhere in Harrisburg.

For now, you can’t stop the Pennsylvania Lottery from releasing your information. To give people some privacy, however, on its website, it only lists your first name and an initial for your last name, along with your county and winnings.

As for the woman in New Hampshire, by not cashing in right away and fighting for her privacy in court, she lost $15,000 a day, or half $1 million a month, in interest.

If you won the lottery, would you want to keep it a secret and stay anonymous?

The Pa. lotto just awarded its biggest prize ever. They don’t know who bought the ticket.

The opening of the West Manchester Twp Fine Wine & Great Spirits store coincides with the Pa. Liquor Control Board’s expanding Sunday hours and adding lottery sales to stores statewide.

A $100,000 Powerball ticket sold in York County last year is set to expire on Feb. 9. If the winner does not claim the ticket, the money will go back into the lottery fund. (Photo: William Thomas Cain, Getty Images)

It’s the largest prize ever awarded by the Pennsylvania Lottery: A drawing held March 17 with an advertised $456.7 million jackpot – or $273,959,698 cash.

Someone bought the winning Powerball ticket at the Speedway at 675 Lancaster Road in Manheim, Lancaster County.

On Friday, the prize was claimed.

But the public isn’t being told who bought the ticket – because the Pennsylvania Lottery doesn’t know.

​”We don’t have the name of the ticket holder on record,” State Lottery spokesman Gary Miller said.

The cash winnings were claimed by Emerald Legacy Trust. Miller said legal entities like trusts have long been allowed to collect prizes. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

What’s different this time?

Well, the size of the prize for one.

But also, Emerald Legacy Trust appears to be structured to shield the identity of the ticket holder.

This issue came up in March, as speculation grew about the ticket holder’s identity and plans. Miller told the Morning Call that a trust wouldn’t protect the identity of the ticket holder.

“A trust may indeed claim a prize, but the Pennsylvania Lottery will release the names of trust members upon request,” the paper quotes Miller.

The Morning Call reported that the Lottery considers winners’ identities to be public record – it’s a matter of “transparency and integrity,” Miller told the paper.

But when Emerald Legacy Trust claimed the prize, the only trustee listed was a lawyer from the Philadelphia suburb of Blue Bell, according to reporting from LancasterOnline.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state to struggle with lottery winners’ desires to stay anonymous.

Want to know who bought the $456.7 million ticket in central Pa.? Too bad. They set up a trust to keep their privacy.