published Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Lottery secrecy bill fails in TN Senate committee

NASHVILLE — An effort to conceal the names of Tennessee Lottery winners failed today on a 4-2 vote in the Senate State and Local Government Committee after a lottery official and open-government advocates warned it would undermine players' trust in the games.

Only two members of the panel, including sponsor Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, voted for the measure. It would have allowed winners to opt in to having their names and hometowns disclosed.

Currently, Tennessee Lottery Corp. officials don't release the names of large winners if they don't wish them to be disclosed. But because the Lottery Corp. is under the state's Open Records Act, news organizations can still request and obtain the name, hometown and state of winners, who can win hundreds of millions of dollars.

Other information such as age and street address are kept confidential under current law.

Bowling said the issue was brought to her attention by an unnamed constituent and she agreed there was a "need for some protection for people who win the lottery."

Someone winning a $100 million multi-state game like Powerball or MegaMillions may be unsophisticated and be at a "vulnerable point," Bowling argued.

But Wanda Young Wilson, the Tennessee Lottery's general counsel and chief operating counsel, said of 46 states that have lotteries, only four keep the information off limit. There's a reason for that, she suggested.

"Players need to be sure these are real people," she said. "We have no doubt that changing the law will have a negative impact."

Wilson said if players believe "some secret person won … that chisels away at the trust."

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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