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Florida considers partial lottery winner anonymity

Apr 22, 2021, 9:44 am

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Florida Lottery

Bill passes in the House, moves to the Senate

By Kate Northrop

Florida lawmakers introduced a new bill that could grant lottery winners of $250,000 or more a three-month period of anonymity before their identity is revealed to the public.

A bill granting temporary anonymity to lottery winners of big prizes passed Wednesday in the House by a vote of 117 to 1. Now the measure heads to the Senate, but with little time left in the current legislative session, it is unlikely that it will become law.

Bill HB 1395 would create a temporary exemption from public records for the names of lottery winners who win prizes valued over $250,000 for 90 days from the date the prize is claimed, unless the winner consents to the release of their name. After the three-month period is up, the winner's name would no longer be confidential and exempt.

The bill is sponsored by House Representative Tracie Davis, who argues that the safety of winners is jeopardized once their name is released in conjunction with their big win.

"At some point, we would love to win a big lottery prize, right?" Davis related to the House. "But, unfortunately, for some people that dream becomes a nightmare. These winners endure all types of scams, harassment, and even some of them loss of life."

Current Florida law allows the names of winners to be released by the Florida Lottery for transparency and marketing purposes. Additionally, the Lottery may publish winners' cities of residence, the games won, prize amounts, and where winning tickets were purchased.

"Persons who win valuable lottery prizes have been the targets of violent and nonviolent criminal acts based upon publicly available identifying information," the bill reads. "For this reason, the Legislature finds that it is a public necessity to temporarily maintain the confidential and exempt status of such information. The Legislature finds that the harm that may result from the release of the name of a winner of a lottery prize valued at $250,000 or more outweighs the public benefit that may be derived from the disclosure of the information."

$250,000 is the prize amount that requires a player to claim their winnings through the Lottery's headquarters in Tallahassee, either in-person, via a drop box, or by mail.

While the bill passed with flying colors in the House, it is still a longshot for it to become law before the legislation session concludes in just a little less than two weeks. The Senate must next vote on the bill, after which the Governor must sign it into law should it pass again.

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