Loss of transparency for Missouri Lottery

Kurt Erickson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY – Winners of the Missouri lottery will have an option to remain anonymous under a new law going into effect next Saturday.

The legislation is designed to protect winners from harassment, but officials say the move could hurt the lottery's bottom line.

"To talk about winners is a great way to advertise," said lottery director May Scheve. "It takes a tool out of our toolbox."

In addition, Scheve said the law makes Missouri the only state to criminalize the publication of a winner's name.

"It is one of the most stringent pieces of legislation passed in the country by making it a Class A misdemeanor," Scheve said.

But the sponsors of the legislation say the new law is a needed fix.

"Individuals should have the choice to disclose their identity as they navigate this life-changing event and tackle the unexpected challenges they may encounter," said Sen. Angela Mosley, D- Florissant, who sponsored the measure along with her husband, Rep. Jay Mosley.

The new law prohibits the State Lottery Commission, any employee of the lottery and any organization working with the lottery from publishing any identifying information of a lottery winner without their consent.

The legislation is unique because it marks the first time in state history that the Legislature has approved a bill sponsored by a husband-wife team. It moved through the Senate and House in the spring with no dissenting votes.

Until now, the lottery posted the names of large prize winners on its website. With the change, winners have the option of withholding their names from the list.

During debate on the floor, Rep. Mosley said the new law will help winners avoid having people contacting them in an attempt to get some of their money.

Scheve said the change also will affect future "second chance" drawings held at various events around the state.

Under those drawings, people who did not win a regular drawing write their name on the back of a ticket, which is then mixed with others. At the end of a day, one winner is chosen and, in the past, their name would be announced.

Now, players have to contact the lottery to see whether they've won, or the lottery has to contact players.

The lottery is not alone in opposing the law.

The Missouri Press Association, for example, said announcing the names of winners builds trust in the lottery.

"Keeping names of lottery winners open promotes transparency and a feeling of fairness in the operation of the Missouri Lottery. Publishing the winners' names is good for the entire lottery system. Revealing lottery winners' names builds trust and excitement, which drives ticket sales," said former press association executive director Doug Crews in written testimony.

Scheve agreed.

"Integrity is everything to the Missouri Lottery. We feel that, in the players' eyes, we'll lose that transparency," she said.