Hit The Lottery, Let Everyone Know!

For those of us that live in Michigan, there may be a “nice problem to have” in your future. Ever play Mega Millions or Powerball and dream of what a life with an extra $300+ million would be like? We all had Mega Millions fever last month when the jackpot reached an astronomical $656 million. Alas, no one from Michigan found all six numbers and that magical mega number. But if that had, we’d have known all about who they were, where they lived and where the winning ticket was found.

The local Lansing newspaper did a story on lottery jackpot winners and their anonymity…and you might be surprised at what happens to you if you win. The MI Lottery Commission is granted the authority to create its own rules regarding how the State handles winners. Here, in the great State of Michigan, if you win the coveted jackpot, expect to have your sh*t flaunted all over town (Wow, that was just Maury Povich, right there).

But it’s true! The director of public relations for the MI Lottery Commission, Andi Brancato stated, “Winner awareness is extremely important for us, and it’s important for the transparency of the lottery and the credibility of the lottery. People are skeptical…they want to know that there was an actual winner”.  Really? Do the citizens of Michigan really think that it’s completely made up when a winner is announced?

But here’s the interesting point, if you play what are referred to as “in-state games” (those being games hosted exclusively by Michigan [think Classic Lotto, the Keno games, etc.]) if you win over $10,000 then the benevolent civil servants will protect your identity. Huh, so play games Michigan benefits from the most (in-state games) and your anonymity is of the utmost importance. But play a multi-state game and expect every Tom, Dick and Harry to come a-knockin’ on your door claiming to be your long lost Uncle!

I really liked the spin Ms. Brancato placed on protecting winners identity if they win a Michigan jackpot, “People want to (remain anonymous) because they perhaps do not want to hear form relatives they haven’t talked with, or they might not want to be besieged by people collecting for a good cause.”! Ha, love it! Apparently citizens only want to remain anonymous when they play Michigan sponsored games…but Mega Millions or Powerball and they can’t wait to be pimped out by the Lottery Commission.

Look, I get it, I really do. It’s GREAT publicity to be able to show a winner to the unwashed masses. It keeps the dream alive that anyone (yes, even YOU) could someday become a multi-hundred millionaire. But what about the very real dangers which come from having that kind of money and notoriety. Forget the obnoxious begging which will come from it, think about the kidnapping (or worse) which could (and does) occur. Remember Frank Sinatra, Jr?

Again, at the end of the day, it’s a nice problem to have, I’ll admit. With the right attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent and accountant, you can easily lock up your money to prevent such atrocities from occurring, but what’s the likelihood a kidnapper is going to ask to review your financial documentation before snatching your kid from the playground?

This loss of privacy should be an option to the lottery player, perhaps has an offset to the true robbery which will occur at the hands of the State: taxes. Don’t get me started on 40%+ you’ll pay to the State just for playing those numbers from LOST. Good for Maryland and Kansas who respect their citizens enough to allow winners to keep their good fortunes private.

I would remiss not to include a cheap plug for my law office, should you ever win $10,000 or more in any sort of legal gaming situation.

(A shout out to the LSJ for bringing this issue to light)

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