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January 22, 2016

After murder of Georgia lottery winner, Pa. lawmaker proposes anonymity bill

Pennsylvania Rep. Ted Harhei calls to allow winners choice to disclose personal information

Over the past month, many in the United States entered a state of frenzy over the record-setting $1.6 billion Powerball drawing on Jan. 14. Some dreamed of giving a portion of their winnings to improvement projects in Philadelphia and others considered how five lucky numbers could transform their lives or fix the issues of a professional sports team

Another, less often considered facet of lottery games at both the state and national level is the possibility that publicized winners can become targets of crime.

On Thursday, a 20-year-old Georgia man who won more than $400,000 in the state's Fantasy 5 jackpot in November was fatally shot in Fitzgerald when three masked men broke into his home overnight. Jasmine Hendricks, girlfriend of victim Craigory Burch, Jr., described in chilling detail how her boyfriend pleaded with the suspects not shoot him, offering up his bank card in exchange for his life.

A key detail in her story is that several people had recently reached out to Burch to warn him that people were planning to rob him. No arrests have been made in his death and an investigation is ongoing.

While most states don't allow lottery winners to remain anonymous, the Georgia Senate is considering a bill that would allow anonymity if lottery winners are willing to donate 25 percent of their haul to the Lottery for Education Account and other tax-exempt organizations, according to LancasterOnline.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Rep. Ted Harhei (D - Westmoreland) reintroduced a previous bill that would amend the state Lottery Act to allow winners to choose whether or not they want their name and other personal information to be revealed. Under the state's Right-to-Know law, lottery winners must allow the publication of certain information. Harhei's bill, which is currently in the House Finance Committee, would enable confidentiality while publishing only the winner's city and county of residence.

“Lottery winners often become big targets, and they’ve been subject to swindles and burglary, and even faced more serious threats, including murder,” Harhai said. “Other states – including Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, South Carolina, Kansas and North Dakota – give winners the option to remain anonymous. Given the crazy world in which we live, it makes sense for Pennsylvania to do the same."