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First Coast

Lottery winners may be allowed to keep their names secret

State Rep. Tracie Davis of Jacksonville says lottery winners can fall victim to scams.

A proposal from a Jacksonville legislator would allow people to keep their names secret if they win a big lottery prize.

The Government Operations Subcommittee voted 14-1 — with Rep. Tom Fabricio, R-Miramar, opposed — to approve a measure (HB 159) that would create a public-records exemption for the names of people who win lottery prizes of $250,000 or more.

“Everyone thinks about winning the lottery prize, right? Becoming a millionaire from just a scratch-off or something like that. But, unfortunately, for some people, the dream becomes a nightmare,” said Rep. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat who is sponsoring the measure. “And these winners endure all types of scams, harassment, and some here in Florida, even a loss of life.”

The records exemption would last for 90 days, with the clock running from the time prizes are claimed.

The bill is filed for consideration during the 2022 legislative session, which will start in January. The House voted 117-1 to approve a similar proposal during the 2021 session. But the Senate version died in committees.

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, who sponsored the 2021 proposal, has filed the issue (SB 170) for the 2022 session.

The names, cities of residence, games won, amounts won and details about where tickets were purchased are regularly released by the state lottery agency as part of its marketing strategy. Under the proposal, prize winners could consent to release their names.

The proposed $250,000 threshold was set because it matches an amount that requires winners to travel to lottery headquarters in Tallahassee to claim prizes.