HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Lottery sent out its first news release Friday listing major lottery prizes won this week without including the names of the winners, following a new law allowing prize winners to remain anonymous.
The Legislature passed the bill last month and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed it into law on March 31.
While the legislation did not have an effective date, lottery spokesperson Jennifer McKee said they followed the spirit of the legislation in only releasing the towns were the major prizes were won, the amounts won, the game played and the name of the retailer that sold the ticket.
The legislation argued that the individual privacy rights of a lottery winner outweigh the public's right to know.
Republican Rep. Frank Garner of Kalispell said people who have won significant amounts of money have been preyed upon. The bill passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 46-4.
The law overturns a long-standing administrative rule adopted by the lottery that said a winner's name is public information. The lottery can still release the names of winners in response to court orders and must still check the names of the winners of large prizes against the list of people who owe child support.
The Montana Lottery was approved by referendum in 1986 and the first tickets were sold in 1987. Since then, it has paid over $694 million in prizes and returned approximately $289 million to the state of Montana and $78 million in retailer commissions.
Montana's shift to anonymity for lottery winners follows a nationwide trend to enact privacy laws. Lottery Post maintains a comprehensive list of anonymity laws by state.