LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Michigan's multistate lottery winners could remain anonymous under a measure approved by the state Senate.
The Senate passed the legislation by a 35-2 vote, and now it goes to the House. Michigan Lottery officials currently are authorized to disclose a Powerball or Mega Millions game winner's identity, and the bill would prohibit the disclosure unless the winner agrees in writing.
Supporters of the measure say winners should be allowed keep their privacy as they can with state games. State lottery officials say few states require anonymity and identifying and promoting winners is important for the public.
"We also want people to know that the reason that we do this is very important for the transparency of the lottery and an accountability of the lottery. We need to let people know that there really are winners out there and we actually do pay a prize to actual people," Michigan Lottery spokesperson Andi Brancato told WWJ Newsradio 950.
Bill sponsor Tory Rocca, a Sterling Heights Republican, said last week that he doesn't believe promotional concerns are valid. He said the real spike in sales comes as the drawings get larger. He also said he doesn't see Michigan Lottery billboards that feature winners' faces, but instead "the gigantic number that shows how big the jackpot is."
Brancato said winners have been featured in so-called Winner Awareness marketing and promotion campaigns. But she argued that public disclosure -- and the media attention that follows -- drives sales. Powerball sales in Michigan have increased 13 percent since Lapeer resident Donald Lawson claimed his prize last month for the $337 million Powerball jackpot.
The Senate Fiscal Agency says the legislation, if enacted, would likely decrease press coverage and the promotional impact of prizes. That would indirectly reduce money going into the School Aid Fund, to which the lottery contributed more than $727 million last fiscal year.
The measure doesn't affect state requirements that winners declare their prizes to welfare authorities. Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law in April that requires lottery officials to tell the Department of Human Services about new winners.
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