The names of lottery winners need to remain out in the open.

State Sen. Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, has proposed granting anonymity to lottery winners – including those who win massive cash awards.

Even though the Georgia Lottery does not always make the names of big winners public — if the winners request their names not be disclosed — the information can still be obtained through an open records request. 

Disclosure is important to keep both the lottery and people who play the lottery honest and above board. 

The public has a right to know if one person has won cash awards repeatedly, if one location has sold winning tickets at a higher than expected percentage, if a member of the lottery commission or one of their family members has been a lottery winner and there is also important public interest in the outcomes for people who have won big in the state lottery. 

An odd part of Henson’s proposal would have required a winner pay the lottery commission up to 4 percent of the prize to cover any cost associated with maintaining confidentiality. At least the Senate nixed that part of this short-sighted piece of legislation. 

Still, state Senate passed the bill that allows the lottery commission to withhold the names of anyone who wins more than $250,000 

We urge the House to reject the bill. 

More specifically, we encourage our legislative delegation to live up to its commitment to government transparency and vote “no” to the notion of secrecy. 

No one makes people play the lottery. 

It is a choice and choosing to play a public lottery should come with some public scrutiny. 

As Georgia First Amendment Foundation President Richard Griffiths said secrecy opens the door to potential shenanigans. 

We understand the argument that large lottery winners sometimes become the victims of crime. 

We believe the public’s interest in a trustworthy, above-board system outweighs those concerns. 

We agree with Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, who told members of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation last week, “It still should be public information. You’re getting funds paid out to you by a governmental body.” 

Georgia’s lottery, essentially a tax, funds pre-K education and HOPE college scholarships and grants. The money the public pays into the system, in the form of buying tickets, become the public purse and it should be watched carefully. 

We agree with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation that the measure would “set a dangerous precedent,” further eroding the state’s open records laws. 

Willard suggested delaying the release of the names, giving winners time to prepare for the notoriety, or perhaps meet with an attorney or financial planners, before their identity is made public. 

We can live with that compromise. 

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