You've heard the touching stories: a waitress, retiree or unemployed worker hits the jackpot and wins the state lottery.
Under a bill approved by the Michigan House Regulatory Reform committee on a 13-2 vote Wednesday, those stories would probably disappear because all lottery winners would be able to remain anonymous.
The bill would prohibit the state lottery office from disclosing information about an individual who won any lottery prize unless that winner authorizes the release of information. That option for anonymity exists now for people who win more than $10,000, but not for people who win the Mega Millions or Powerball prizes.
Currently six states — Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina — allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. And four more — Colorado, Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts — allow anonymity if the winners claim their winnings through a trust.
"Lottery winnings, while for many is a major plus in their live, it can be a major negative at times," said state Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama. "It costs friendships. It costs family relationships. It costs jobs. I thought it should be an option that's available."
The Lottery Commission is against the bill because they say it will hamper the agency's ability to generate publicity, and ultimately, sales of lottery tickets. A decline in lottery sales would reduce revenues to the school aid fund, the commission said. The fund received $742.8 million from lottery revenues in the last fiscal year.
Of the 87 lottery winners of more than $50,000 in 2014, 69% decided to remain anonymous, said Jeff Holyfield, spokesman for the Lottery Commission. Only one Michigan resident won a Mega Millions pot of $66 million last year and her name was made public.
"We look at it as a step backward in terms of openness and transparency," Holyfield said.
The bill — HB 4433 — now moves to the full House for consideration.