PHOENIX — When two winning tickets for a record $588 million Powerball jackpot were claimed from the Nov. 28 drawing, the world focused on the winners.
A Missouri couple appeared at a press conference and held up the traditional giant-sized check. The Arizona winner, however, skipped the press conference where lottery officials announced last month that someone had claimed the second half of the prize.
The differing approach to releasing information on the winners reflects a broader debate that is playing out in state Legislatures and lottery offices nationwide: Should the winners' names be secret?
Lawmakers in Michigan and New Jersey think so, proposing bills to allow anonymity because winners are prone to falling victim to scams, shady businesses, greedy distant family members and violent criminals looking to shake them down.
Lotteries object, arguing that publicizing the winners' names drives sales and that having their names released ensures that people know there isn't something fishy afoot, like a game rigged so a lottery insider wins.
In Michigan, Republican state Sen. Tory Rocca pushed a lottery bill that allows winners to remain anonymous. It didn't pass, but in arguing for it, he cited cases where lottery winners were shot and killed because of their newfound wealth.
A Florida woman was convicted last month of first-degree murder after she befriended a man who won a $30 million jackpot in 2006. Prosecutors said she took control of his assets, killed him, buried him in her yard and poured a concrete slab above the grave.
An effort in New Jersey by Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan took a middle ground between public release and privacy, calling for a one-year delay in releasing winners' names. It also didn't make it out of the Legislature last year, but he said he'll keep pressing to get it passed.
Whelan said a one-year delay would give winners a chance to adjust while still keeping the public disclosure lotteries say they need.