Lottery winners shouldn’t be anonymous

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column has been updated to reflect the correct amount the lottery has raised for education in the state of Georgia.

On Monday, two winners of the Fantasy 5 lottery came forward to claim their share of more than $1.3 million. One of those winners bought their ticket at a gas station in Hogansville, right here in Troup County.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know whether a local person bought that winning ticket. Thanks to a law passed earlier this year, lottery winners of more than $250,000 have the option to remain anonymous in Georgia. That law not only increases the likelihood of corruption, but is also unfair to everyone who chooses to play the lottery.

This is a time in world history where there is as much fake news on social media as real news and a heightened fear of government corruption is commonplace among citizens.

In this age, transparency from government organizations is needed more than ever before. However, Georgia lawmakers passed a law that makes it possible for lottery winners to remain in the dark, inviting corruption into a process that ought to bend over backwards to ensure as much transparency as possible. 

Lawmakers argued in passing the bill that it would protect the winners from becoming victims of violent crimes.

It’s a fair point, and one worth considering.  Unfortunately, several lottery winners have been killed or been the victim of scams in recent years.

Regardless, I’d argue that transparency is even more important. Last year, the Georgia Lottery transferred over $1.1 billion to the State Treasury’s Lottery for Education Account. It was the largest amount in state history and there is no reason to think that number will not continue to climb in the future.

All in all, the lottery has raised more than$19.8 billion for state education programs in Georgia.

That’s a lot of money changing hands, and the public has a right to know where its money is going.

Not only do the people of Georgia — and surrounding states — fund the lottery, but money from the lottery also funds the HOPE Scholarship, which makes it possible for local students to afford college each year.

I’m not saying there’s currently any corruption with the lottery, but I do believe corruption is less likely when any process is transparent and in the public eye.

For anyone who doesn’t want the attention accompanying a winning ticket — either don’t play the lottery or don’t claim the winning ticket. I’m guessing most people would take the money, even if they had to deal with the media attention and long-lost relatives.

In the future, lawmakers should reconsider this law and try to figure out a compromise, one that wouldn’t violate public trust, but would also protect winners.

One possible option could include keeping winner’s identities hidden for a certain period of time — a month, three months, six months — until most people stopped paying attention.

Whatever the solution is, there’s got to be a way for both sides to win — the lottery ticket winner who is now set for life and the public.