Published by the Muskogee Phoenix
August 17, 2006
The Oklahoma Lottery Commission may not be doing anything different than lotteries in other states in allowing trusts to claim prizes, but we don't want to be like other states.
We want winners identified just as the commission said they would be identified — with the minimum name and hometown.
Despite stating on its Web site that winners cannot be anonymous, the commission allowed the June 17, $101.8 million Powerball winners to claim their prize anonymously through a trust, the WJW Investment Trust, on Aug. 2.
What at stake here is not curiosity but the integrity of this lottery.
No board member, employee of the lottery or anyone in their immediate families or those connected to the sale of lottery tickets can purchase a ticket or claim a prize. The act also forbids anyone under 18 years of age to purchase a ticket.
But how do we know none of those things happened if the lottery allows winners to remain anonymous?
Jim Scroggins, executive director of the Oklahoma Lottery, told a Phoenix reporter that even the commission does not know who the winners of the $101.8 million Powerball were, that it was not stated in the trust agreement.
If the state doesn't know who won, then, too, how can it check to see if that person doesn't owe back child support payments?
According to the Lottery Act, the commission is supposed to withhold delinquent child support from winnings. But according to Scroggins and the state Attorney General's Office, that didn't matter in this case.
Up to now, all those who have claimed a prize have declared their names and hometowns and been subject to a background search. But evidently, these winners were not.
Probably not every single person who has claimed a prize in the Oklahoma lottery so far has been the actual winner. Some winners for various reasons have sent relatives or friends to claim their prizes.
But that shouldn't be an excuse to avoid naming those who claim prizes, which is what the lottery had promised on its Web site — before it changed the wording this week to accommodate the Powerball award to the trust.
The commission still states, "It is important for the public to know the lottery is run honestly," but we really aren't sure of that as long as those who claim prizes go unnamed.