By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
March 18, 2015
RALEIGH – Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) made his best case for HB 30 – Name/Address of Lottery Winner/Confidential before the House Judiciary III Committee on Wednesday. The legislative panel, however, rejected the bill siting concerns about transparency.
Jackson’s proposed measure would have allowed winners of the lottery to keep their names confidential. State law currently says winners and their winnings must be made public. He said his intentions were simply to provide an option of protection for winners. Because of today’s technology, Jackson argued, the current policy makes winners vulnerable to their personal information being tracked down.
During a ten minute power point before the committee, Jackson pointed to a Raleigh News and Observer article quoting Carl Stent, deputy director of legal services for the South Carolina Education Lottery who echoed his concerns, saying, “It only heightens the debate when you have banks and hospitals getting a breach in their data. It’s an issue that I am sure other states will continue to battle with.”
After offering praise for the lottery and its importance to state funding, Jackson insisted his proposal was in no way an attempt to undermine the lottery. He said his bill might result in a decrease in “earned media” attention, but confidentiality would in no way harm lottery revenues. He pointed to other states like South Carolina and Delaware that provide confidentiality for winners of their lotteries and argued revenues in those states were not negatively impacted.
Although the panel had wrestled over the bill for more than two weeks, concerns about open government and the potential for fraud prevailed.
Rep. Kelly Hastings (R-Gaston) asked lottery officials attending the meeting if a story about a $1 million lottery fraud case which occurred in 2012 were true and, if the current policy requiring winners’ names be made public had actually helped to stop the scam. North Carolina Education Lottery director of government affairs, Jamie Fuquay, confirmed that both were true.
In a previous hearing on the legislation, the North Carolina Education Lottery had stated their opposition to the bill and referred to the case as proof that existing policies were working to protect lottery integrity.
Rep, John Bell (R-Wayne) questioned the potential for sham by posing the scenario of a group having purchased a winning ticket as part of a pool arrangement. He argued that most often in such situations only one person holds the ticket. “What if the person holding that ticket knows it’s a winner, but then doesn’t reveal it?” he asked. “You don’t know we’ve won, and here I go walking away with all the money,” Bell said with a laugh.
Rep. Craig Horn (R- Union) argued that he felt there were sufficient protections and training already provided by the lottery for its winners. He added that he was really concerned about the public’s faith in their government and believed it would be better to come out in favor of full disclosure. “I’m going to have to come down on the side of transparency,” he said.
Rep. Duane Hall (D-Wake) attempted to offer a compromise that would allow winners to remain confidential for 90 days, giving them adequate time to get their affairs in order, take advantage of available training, and protect themselves. But his amendment failed by a 7-5 margin.
The final vote on the full measure was defeated in a voice vote.
Jackson told the media afterward that the bill was unquestionably dead for this session. “But there are other ways to get at what I was trying to accomplish,” he said, “this was just one of them.”
The Christian Action League did not take a position on the bill. Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, however, did offer a personal opinion, saying, “I believe that any vote in favor of government being crystalline is always the best choice.”
See previous story: N.C. Lawmakers Mull-Over Two Lottery Bills