A woman in New Hampshire just won a US$559.7 million Powerball lottery jackpot — but she’s taking legal action to protect her identity from being revealed.
The lottery winner, who is referred to as “Jane Doe” in court documents, bought the winning ticket on Jan. 6 from a convenience store in Merrimack.
Under New Hampshire law, a lottery winner’s name, town and prize amount are public information. But her lawyers argue her privacy interest outweighs the insignificant public interest in disclosing her name.
The woman hasn’t turned in her ticket yet, but she showed lottery officials a photocopy of the front.
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New Hampshire Lottery executive director, Charlie McIntyre, explained in a statement that the winning ticket will be processed “like any other.”
“While we respect this player’s desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols,” he said.
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“She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars,” the woman’s complaint read. “She wishes to remain in New Hampshire and give back to the state and community that has given so much to her.”
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Toronto-based lawyer Jordan Donich explained that the woman’s desire to remain anonymous will face roadblocks because the lottery company and woman have competing interests — privacy versus transparency.
“The lottery’s is they want to publish names of the winner to prove they’re legitimate, transparent, and they are not anonymous people winning millions of dollars,” he told Global News.
What many lottery winners don’t realize is that they’re bound to the rules set by lottery organizations.
“When you buy a ticket, it’s implied that you’re bound by the rules and the terms,” Donich said.
“If they don’t want to be bound by the terms of the lottery, they shouldn’t buy a ticket.”
In the U.S., several states, such as Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, and Ohio, allow the winners to remain anonymous — if they purchase the ticket within the state.
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Similarly, Donich explains that rules surrounding staying anonymous vary in Canada. In Ontario, for example, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) has more vague wording that may allow for exceptions.
“OLG reserves the right to publish the name, city and photograph of any winner,” the OLG website explains. “This is necessary for us to demonstrate that people do win. Winner information is released to the news media and may be used in OLG’s advertising. For every prizewinner there are a number of other players who did not win but have a legitimate desire to know that someone won.”
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Donich says the wording “reserves the rights” leaves room for exceptions in specific cases, but what those exceptions might be raises questions.
In British Columbia, lottery winners can request to remain anonymous, but the B.C. Lottery Corporation reserves the right to decline.
“We consider requests for anonymity on a case by case basis, but the exceptions are rare,” the organization’s website reads.
Donich says people playing the lottery should be aware that winning comes at a cost — it’s not completely “free money.”
“There’s this perception that it’s your money because you won it, irrespective of rules, but you’ve won that money on terms and rules.”
— With files from The Associated Press