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Why do states release names of lottery winners?

Most state lotteries in the United States release the names and hometowns of big jackpot winners. This is done for several reasons that serve both the lottery and the public interest. However, it also comes with some downsides for the winners themselves.

Increased Transparency

Releasing winner names provides transparency for the lottery games. It shows the public that real people are actually winning the prizes rather than just hypothetical winners. This helps build trust in the lottery and convinces people to play.

Seeing local community members win prizes makes it seem more attainable for more potential players. They can see people just like them getting lucky, rather than distant anonymous winners. This drives more ticket sales.

Prevents Fraud

Announcing winners publicly also helps prevent potential fraud or rigging of lottery games. It would be easier for lottery officials to fabricate winners if they did not have to provide names and details. Releasing an identified person who has won makes it harder to fake winning tickets.

This protects both players and the lottery administration. Players can verify the prizes were validly won rather than arranged dishonestly. And lotteries can prove they are not manipulating results or awarding prizes unfairly.

Creates Excitement

Having identified winners builds public excitement and interest in the lotteries as well. Putting a face and story to the windfall makes it more engaging. People connect more to a person they can envision winning rather than an anonymous ticket holder.

This helps fuel ticket sales, as people imagine themselves being the next winner announced across the state. It creates a cycle of dreams and renewed hopes with each named winner.

Downside for Winners

However, having their names revealed also comes with downsides for the lottery winners themselves. Winning such large prizes often comes with significant headaches beyond just the money.

Privacy Issues

Most big lottery winners face major privacy issues after their winnings are made public. They are suddenly thrust into the spotlight, facing media attention and public scrutiny.

Having their name and hometown known exposes them to security risks as well. They can become targets for harassment, scams, or even robbery or kidnapping. Criminals may see them as easy prey for various frauds and crimes.


It is extremely common for past lottery winners to report significant harassment after their names are released. This includes constant bothering for money from friends, relatives, charities, and strangers.

They may face emotionally taxing sob stories and heartbreaking requests nonstop. It can be overwhelming dealing with so many people hitting them up for cash gifts and loans.


More serious harassment issues include stalking behavior. Obsessive fans or overeager salespeople can hound winners relentlessly. Angry people may also target them with threats or offensive mail.

Winners essentially lose control over their privacy and ability to avoid nuisances or worse. They have to take extra precautions for their safety.

Family Issues

The sudden money and attention can also fracture relatives and relationships. Greed and envy take hold, causing rifts and suspicions within families over the new riches.

Children of winners in particular face high risks of kidnapping or other targeting from criminals. Lotteries rarely publish names of underage winners for this reason. But adult children still face extra safety concerns.

Security Measures

Most big winners end up requiring strict security measures. This may include security systems, guards, fenced property, and being selective about travel. Winners often need to isolate themselves for protection.

Some winners even end up moving residences or leaving their jobs to maintain safety. But this disrupts lives and adds major burdens in exchange for the prize money.

Financial Effects

Besides privacy and safety, having their names announced also affects lottery winners finance-wise:

Begging Requests

Constant unsolicited requests for money are essentially guaranteed. Friends, co-workers, long-lost relatives, and random strangers all come asking.

Most winners report being totally flooded with gifts, appeals, proposals, and outright demands share their newfound wealth. Saying no strains relations.

Overwhelming Taxes

While prizes are lump sums, winners face large tax burdens on the formal income. This is withheld upfront in many cases, reducing the cash amount. Other taxes apply on investment income later too.

The large balances can bump winners into higher tax brackets overall as well. Financial planning helps mitigate this major effect.

Bad Investments

Coming into instant money makes winners vulnerable to scams, greedy advisors, and misguided ventures. Without financial literacy, losses mount quickly.

Even with care, winners face constant bad investment pitches and deals. Saying yes risks huge sinks of money, while saying no alienates friends and family.

Costly Lawsuits

Litigation also threatens lottery winners, whether legitimate or frivolous. Lawsuits target winners’ deep pockets, hoping for easy settlement payouts.

Even honest cases cost heavily to defend in court. Sadly, winning the lottery almost guarantees having to pay legal fees down the road.


It is also common for so-called friends, relatives, partners, and others to try taking advantage of a winner’s assets. They may push for shared vacations, dinners, real estate, and more.

These freeloaders can quickly drain a lottery winner through subtle mooching. It takes financial savvy to detect and stop this behavior.

Psychological Effects

Aside from privacy, security, and money, having their names outed also psychologically impacts lottery winners:


Constant harassment, family tensions, lawsuits, and financial worries all generate immense stress for winners. Their lifestyles and peace of mind become disrupted.

This strain can create anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, depression, and relationship troubles. Winning the lottery ironically becomes a major stressor.

Overwhelming Guilt

Survivor’s guilt is common among lottery winners as well. They struggle with feeling guilty that family, friends, or co-workers did not win too and share in the good fortune.

The nonstop appeals for money reinforce this guilt. Winners suffer emotional duress trying to juggle requests.

Changed Relationships

With money flowing unevenly among friends and family, it invariably changes relationships and creates tension. Envy, resentment, and expectation swirl.

Winners even report being lied to or cheated on by romantic partners wanting access to the newfound wealth. Money distorts existing bonds.

Loss of Purpose

Major lottery wins allow people to instantly retire or quit jobs. But this sudden life change can be psychologically difficult too.

Losing one’s purpose through career and productivity often leads to depression or substance abuse. Idleness and indulgence carry a cost.

Personality Changes

Finally, a lottery windfall can simply change personalities and values, turning people arrogant and immoral. Wealth corrupts in many cases.

If money loosens morals, winners may hurt loved ones through infidelity, addictions, or other means. Wealth can unravel positive virtues.

Pros of Publicity

Despite the many costs, there are some advantages for lottery winners in having their names publicized after a big jackpot:

Inspiration for Others

The ability to inspire hope and excitement in other players is a major benefit of identified winners. People want to envision hitting it big like someone already did.

This helps drive ongoing lottery ticket sales, allowing games to offer even higher jackpots down the line. So the cycle of dreaming continues.

Local Celebrity

For some personalities, the instant local celebrity and attention is a major upside. They enjoy fame and public image. The renown strokes egos.

This perk is especially appealing in small towns where little happens. Being the marquee lottery winner can be thrilling for many.


Similarly, going from ordinary to newsworthy is validating for some lottery winners. It is public confirmation they won rather than rumors.

The attention feeds self-esteem and pride at having gained such fortune and prominence. Winners feel respected.

Business Opportunities

Name recognition from lottery publicity also opens business opportunities. Winners can monetize their fame with book deals, reality shows, endorsements, speaking gigs, and other ventures.

These rewarding income streams require widespread familiarity that announcing winners provides.

State Interests

Ultimately states release names of lottery winners because it aligns with their own administrative and revenue interests:

Increased Scrutiny

As mentioned, identifying winners instead of keeping them anonymous allows the public to verify the process is legitimate. It invites needed scrutiny rather than suspicion.

States thus announce winners proudly as proof the games are truly awarding real prizes fairly.

Higher Revenues

While beneficial for integrity and oversight, publicizing winners more importantly drives ongoing lottery ticket sales and state revenues. The hype generates sustained eagerness that boosts participation.

This incentive far outweighs the downsides for winners. States are mainly concerned with their own bottom line.

Easy Process

Administratively it is also simpler to publicize winners than keep their names secret. Letting media report freely on big jackpots saves lottery officials effort.

Attempting to have anonymous winners would require non-disclosure agreements and other cumbersome constraints on reporters.

Avoiding Litigation

States likely also release names preemptively to avoid potential lawsuits from winners wanting privacy. Mandating anonymity could invite legal challenges.

Letting winners voluntarily reveal themselves shifts accountability away from the lottery administration. It heads off legal disputes.

Pros Cons
Increased transparency Loss of privacy
Prevents fraud Harassment risks
Creates excitement Family/relationship issues
Inspires other players Security costs
Local celebrity Financial burdens
Validation Psychological stress
Business opportunities Personality changes
Increased lottery revenue


Releasing lottery winners’ names aligns with states’ interests in oversight, publicity, and revenue. But it comes at a steep cost for the winners’ privacy and finances. They face harassment, family turmoil, legal issues, and psychological strains.

Ultimately, lottery winners have little choice or recourse in having their names provided to news outlets. State lotteries mandate transparency about big jackpot results. Players must accept loss of anonymity in exchange for claiming prizes.

Going forward, lottery officials should look for a better balance between public transparency and personal privacy. With money and technology, additional options likely exist beyond the blunt choice of full publicity versus secrecy. States should explore ways to announce winners that protect identities until individuals consent.

However, the current model persists because it effectively serves state taxation interests through hype. Lotteries have little incentive to change what drives billions in annual revenues nationwide. As long as dreams of riches outweigh nightmares of publicity, lottery winners will see their names in lights and headlines after lady luck comes calling.