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Secret winners? A losing proposition

| Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

State Rep. Ted Harhai's well-intentioned proposal to let lottery winners remain anonymous nevertheless would pave Pennsylvania's road to a hell of less state government transparency and more suspicion about lottery drawings' integrity.

The Monessen Democrat says his House Bill 1893 would “protect lottery winners from criminals and scam artists that prey” on them. Such downsides to quick lottery riches are sad facts, particularly worrisome for the lucky few who win big in multistate Powerball and Mega Millions drawings when jackpots total hundreds of millions of dollars.

But the people's right to know protects the broader public interest in keeping tabs on state government — and keeping the lotteries it runs honest — and thus must outweigh such concerns. Results of anything run by government should be public — and public trust in such lotteries depends on openness.

“The lottery has long viewed the identities of winners as a public record because this protects the lottery's integrity and reassures players that our winners are real people,” a Pennsylvania Lottery spokesman told The Sentinel of Carlisle.

The lottery's parent agency, the Department of Revenue, hasn't taken an official position on Mr. Harhai's bill but should oppose it strongly. So should his fellow lawmakers, who should kill it as the bad idea it is.

And as for Pennsylvanians who don't want to be publicized as winners, they can avoid that fate the way they always have — by not playing the lottery in the first place.

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