Are Lottery Winners Required to Reveal Their Identities?

Winners of the Pennsylvania lottery must fill out a claim form to receive their prizes. This claim form requires all lottery winners to reveal their identities. The Pennsylvania lottery commission reveals at least some identifying information about lottery winners to the public.

And yet there is an open question about whether lottery winners can get around this policy. With all of the misfortune and criminal acts that can befall lottery winners, lawyers have sought a loophole that will allow lottery winners to maintain at least some control over who can know about their winnings.

With this in mind, here is some information about the rules and policies about disclosing the identities of lottery winners.

Lottery Winners and Anonymity

You might believe that a lottery winner would want everyone to know about their good fortune. But anonymity can have several benefits for lottery winners, including:

Safety

One of the most important considerations for lottery winners is safety. If the world knows about your financial windfall, someone may try to rob you, kidnap you, or even murder you.

By remaining anonymous, you reduce the chances that someone will target you for a violent crime.

Extortion

Perhaps you have something in your past that you would prefer to keep secret. Once you hit the lottery, you could become the target of extortionists. These criminals may try to force you to pay on the threat of releasing negative information about you.

Shakedowns

When people know you have money, they can get tempted to try to take some of it away from you. People could file false lawsuits against you to try to push you into paying a nuisance settlement to make the lawsuit go away.

Alternatively, people could try to stage a phony accident so they could attempt to file a personal injury claim against you. Again, they hope that you will pay a settlement to get rid of the claim.

Solicitations

Lottery winners are often besieged by friends, family members, and even strangers who ask for money. These solicitations can ruin relationships when the lottery winner rejects the requests.

The Pennsylvania Lottery Policy

Pennsylvania explicitly states that it must collect a lottery winner’s personal information and that it must disclose at least some of that information to the public. The lottery commission gives several reasons for this policy, including:

  • Compliance with Pennsylvania’s open records laws
  • Transparency to show the public that the games can be won
  • Increasing lottery play through promotions showing past winners

To claim your prize, you must disclose your name, address, birth date, and Social Security number. The lottery commission can announce that you won a prize and disclose:

  • Your name or some part of your name
  • City and county of residence
  • Game name
  • Date of win
  • Prize amount

The lottery commission’s recent practice has been to disclose a winner’s first name, last initial, and county of residence. For example, a typical winner’s announcement might say that John D. of Franklin County won $10,000.

Possible Loopholes to Maintain Anonymity

Pennsylvania’s lottery rules require the commission to gather and disclose a lottery winner’s identity. But the rules do not require the lottery winner to be a natural person. The lottery rules allow partnerships to claim a lottery prize.

This would suggest that a trust or limited liability company (LLC) might be able to claim a lottery prize in Pennsylvania. This would shield the lottery winner’s identity from both the lottery commission and the public.

To do this, a lottery winner would have a lawyer form an entity. The winner would then transfer ownership of the winning ticket to the entity. As the legal owner of the ticket, the entity would claim the prize.

The lottery commission could collect and disclose the entity’s identifying information. But since the person who originally bought the ticket would no longer own it, there would be no reason for the lottery commission to collect or disclose that person’s identifying information.