The Garden City Telegram
1/14/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Secret luck

No need for anonymity in state lottery game.

A Leoti family happily shared news of their recent good fortune.

After Misti and Robert Grandstaff cashed in with a $100,000 scratch-off ticket, the couple had no problem letting people know how the windfall would change their lives.

They mentioned medical bills and home and car repairs, and how the winnings couldn't have come at a better time.

Such heartwarming stories, however, aren't always known in Kansas, one of just a handful of states that allow lottery winners to remain anonymous.

Other states understandably would rather side with transparency. They view identities of lottery winners as public information. Any lottery run by state government, as in Kansas, should support such openness.

States that don't allow anonymity also believe secrecy casts doubt on the legitimacy of the game, while sharing news about winners helps promote lotteries that generate funding for public use (Kansas lottery dollars go to economic development and other initiatives.)

And it's easy to see how people who play the lottery in hopes of striking it rich want to know who did beat the odds, and hear their stories when possible.

If a state sees benefit in promoting its own lottery, so be it. No one is forced to play.

Winners who would rather stay out of the public spotlight might say they're trying to avoid any hassle that could come with sudden wealth. Perhaps that was the case in April 2012 in Ottawa, when one of three winners of a record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot chose to remain anonymous. Likewise in 2011 in Garden City, where someone purchased a Super Kansas Cash lottery ticket worth more than $3 million — the biggest prize that year in the Sunflower State — yet stayed mum.

Some states that prohibit anonymity understandably make exceptions for lottery winners with restraining orders and other extreme situations. Short of such issues, those who choose to play should do so knowing a big win won't remain their secret.

Such openness works well in many other states. Kansas should follow suit.

And if lottery players would rather avoid any attention, there's one guaranteed way: Don't play.