- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

CLEMMONS, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina law compels winners of significant lottery prizes to reveal their identities, but a proposal in the legislature would keep that information confidential unless the winner says otherwise.

While the N.C. Education Lottery opposes the measure, some players think it’s not such a bad idea.

The bill was filed by Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, whose father won a $1 million Powerball jackpot in 2007.

Jackson filed a similar bill two years ago, and he said people with good fortune shouldn’t be singled out, potentially opening them up to repeated contacts from charities or potential scams seeking a piece of the winnings.

Under the current law, the winner’s name hometown, game played, amount of money won and prize redemption date are made public. The information usually is collected for prizes of at least $600, when winners must visit a lottery office

In opposing the legislation, the lottery says releasing information about winners reinforces credibility with the games, which began nine years ago. Security officials and law enforcement can be tipped off to fraud if someone claiming to be another person comes forward publicly to redeem a prize. State media associations also oppose the change because information about government activity is being removed from public view.

Six states - Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina - allow lottery winners to remain anonymous.

In Forsyth County, Carlton’s convenience store just off Interstate 40 in Clemmons is a hotbed for lottery players. While the small, cinder-block store doesn’t sell gasoline, it has 72 different slots for lottery scratch-off cards in addition to offering Mega Millions and Powerball. It’s been cited by the N.C. Education Lottery for its success at selling the Carolina Cash 5 game.

Jim McDowell, an Army and U.S. Postal Service retiree, cashed in his tickets at the store Friday for the second time this week, collecting nearly $300. McDowell said he would like to give any significant lottery winnings to homeless children, and he’d prefer to keep word of his winnings to himself.

“If they had that option, I would elect to take it,” McDowell said. “That eliminates people from starting to call you, and bum and beg and just worry you to death. That way, you can be selective about who you’re going to help and when you want to help them.”

McDowell suggested that keeping a winner’s name confidential could also prevent threats or harm to a winner’s family. He referred to Marie Holmes, the single mother of four from Shallotte who won a $188 million annuity on Feb. 11.

“There are some guys out there (who) probably would love to get their hands on some of that, any way they could,” he said.

Stay-at-home mother Angela Honeycutt, who also visited the store to try her lottery luck, agrees with McDowell.

“Some people want to remain anonymous so they don’t have people coming out of the woodwork, so to speak,” Honeycutt said. “I think it should be up to the individual’s choice.”

House judiciary committee members were divided on the bill during debate earlier this week.

Lawmakers are considering an amendment requiring a winner’s information to be considered public unless the person specifically requests anonymity by filling out a form. Some domestic violence victims can now request certain public information remain confidential. A meeting for future debate on the bill was not immediately scheduled.

___

Legislative correspondent Gary Robertson contributed to this report from Raleigh.

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