FILE - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Just because you hit it big shouldn't mean you lose your right to privacy. The top Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly is trying to make that argument to persuade lawmakers to end Wisconsin's law that names lottery winners. 

Speaker Robin Vos started pushing the idea after a West Allis man, Manuel Franco, won a record  $768 million Powerball jackpot in March.

“Under current law, the winner was forced to expose his identity which was publicized in a press conference and spread across the nation," Vos said. "This type of attention led to months of harassment that forced the now multimillionaire to go off the grid.”

Franco told reporters at his winner's press conference in April that his legal team told him to not do any more interviews and to stay off social media. 

Vos said that's sad. 

“Just because you win the lottery, it shouldn’t mean you lose your right to privacy," Vos wrote. 

Franco's lawyers echoed that sentiment with a letter to lawmakers. 

Attorney Andrew Stoltmann wrote that naming winners opens the door "to near constant harassment by financial advisers and scammers who simply want to take their money." 

Vos' proposal would not only keep winners' names private, his legislation would prohibit the Department of Revenue, lottery administrators and the retailer who sold the ticket from disclosing the lottery prize winner’s name, address or Social Security number if the individual requests anonymity.

Courts, the state's Department of Revenue, and the IRS would all be notified of the winner's good luck so that any past due child support or back taxes could be paid. 

Wisconsin Lottery managers aren't so keen on Vos' idea. 

Wisconsin Lottery Director Cindy Polzin said naming lotto winners increases transparency for the games and helps fight fraud. 

She also hinted that having a name and a face in the local gas station or convenience store next to a big check helps drive lottery ticket sales.

"The advantage to winners of remaining anonymous is apparent, the disadvantage to players, lotteries and other stakeholders are less obvious, frequently overlooked and of great merit," Polzin told lawmakers at a statehouse hearing on Wednesday. 

Vos' plan would still allow stores to claim they sold a winning ticket, but it would end the practice of showing off winners' pictures. 

Most states across the country require lottery winners to publicly claim their prize. Only Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia allow winners to stay anonymous. 


An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.