Our View: Lottery: Keep state's lottery system transparent

in Lottery

Why it matters: A bill that would allow lottery winners to be anonymous is unnecessary and would reduce faith that the system is being operated legitimately.

Since Minnesota approved a lottery in 1988, winners of prizes have been required to have their names made public. Now some lawmakers want to allow winners to remain anonymous.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ann Rest and GOP Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, is seen as a way to protect winners of big jackpots from being “harassed and hounded,” as Kiffmeyer put it.

If passed, Minnesota would join just a handful of other states that allow winners names to be kept secret.

The proposal is unnecessary and runs counter to Minnesota’s tradition of open and transparent public agencies.

Having public faith that the state’s lottery system is run above board and isn’t rigged is important and allowing anonymous winners undermines that trust.

While the state’s lottery system has a good reputation for operating fairly and legally, there have been cases of lottery fraud in the United States.

In 2017 Eddie Tipton, who worked as security director of the American Multi-State Lottery Association, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after admitting he and his brother had rigged numerous lotteries, including in Wisconsin and Iowa, collecting millions of dollars.

His scheme unraveled after he unsuccessfully attempted to collect an ill-gotten $14.3 million prize for the Hot Lotto by trying to use an anonymous, off-shore trust company.

People choosing to buy lottery tickets in Minnesota know that if they beat the incredible odds of winning a big jackpot their names will become public. While they may well get bothered by people hoping to get a piece of those winnings, it’s an inconvenience they understand and should be willing to put up with.

And winners know they have a year to collect their winnings, leaving them plenty of time to get expert financial and security advice and to prepare themselves before they claim their prize and their names become public.

The Minnesota lottery has operated fine for 30 years under a system of openness. There is no compelling reason to change that now.