Our Opinion: Lottery credibility trumps privacy for winners

News Tribune editorial

The integrity of a public process trumps personal privacy.

State lawmakers are considering legislation to prohibit the Missouri Lottery from releasing the names and addresses of prize winners.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Black Jack, was presented this week to the House Local Government Committee.

The proposal is without merit and deserves to die in committee.

Winning the lottery can cause hardships, the sponsor told the panel, including phone calls, harassment and loss of privacy. She even cited the case of a Chicago winner who was killed before collecting the prize.

Without knowing the facts in the Chicago case, we cannot determine if other factors were involved.

If the murder was prompted solely by the winnings, it marks a departure from the norm. We know this because if jackpots routinely resulted in death by homicide, lottery participation invariably would diminish.

The consequences of winning large sums of money, then, are more inconvenient than dangerous.

We believe personal inconvenience is not a valid reason to close the curtain on a state-sponsored gambling operation that involves large amounts of money.

Phillip Smith, a Missouri Lottery official, told the committee: “To ensure the integrity and to have the public have confidence in our games they have to know that people do win prizes by people purchasing tickets.”

The Missouri Lottery is not a clandestine numbers game run out of some back-alley betting shop.

It is a publicly financed operation that thrives on publicity. Participants know and accept those realities before purchasing their tickets.

Lottery players and winners need not surrender every scrap of private information. The public doesn’t need to know their cellphone or Social Security numbers, for example.

But their identity must remain an open record subject to provisions of Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

To the promotional slogan — “You can’t win if you don’t play” — we would add: “By the rules.”

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