TRENTON, NJ — For some lottery winners, a large jackpot can bring out scam artists and others looking to get a piece of the pie.
Some winners have even been kidnapped and killed.
Now, a New Jersey assemblyman hopes to reduce the chances of that happening through legislation that would keep winners out of the public eye.
"Winning the lottery can be a blessing and a curse," said Assemblyman Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli.
"Once their identities become public, winners can become targets for unscrupulous individuals and scam artists."
The bill would direct the state's Lottery Commission to establish a regulation that lottery winners may remain anonymous for one year. Current regulation allows the commission to release the names, addresses, prize amount and photographs of winners.
The address used does not include a street or a house number, but a winner's name, town and county are available under the Open Public Records Act.
The new legislation would prohibit the identity of a winner who wants to remain anonymous from being included in materials available for public inspection during the one-year period.
"It can be tempting to share such great news with the world, and some people may want that celebrity," said Burzichelli. "If they want to spread the good news, they can.
"We just think that allowing a grace period for those who want to stay out of the limelight makes sense."
New Jersey Lottery spokeswoman Judith L. Drucker said Wednesday the commission and Treasury officials will be monitoring the bill's progress in the Legislature.
"While greater privacy protections may be possible, transparency gives taxpayers increased confidence that lottery games are fair and honest," said Drucker.
Burzichelli cited stories from around the country where the stories of winners ended in tragedy.
An Illinois resident who won $20 million in 1996 was kidnapped and killed by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend who targeted him for money.
A Florida man who won $31 million in 2006 disappeared three years later. His body was found under a concrete slab in 2010. A woman he befriended and who later seized control of his money was charged in connection with his murder.
"If these people were allowed to remain anonymous for a while, maybe they would have been able to manage their affairs better," Burzichelli said.
"This grace period could help a lot of people from being approached from somebody trying to sell them oil futures in Iraq."
Burzichelli, a Democrat, believes the nonpartisan, noncontroversial legislation should, from the Assembly side, get approved by the end of the year.
"We might fine-tune it a bit, tweak some dollar limits and thresholds," the assemblyman said. "But again, we just think this makes sense."