Whoever won the $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot Tuesday will have to reveal an identity eventually, as many states forbid lottery winners to remain anonymous.
The winning ticket was sold in California, matching all six numbers that were pulled in the delayed drawing – which was held Tuesday morning due to a participating lottery needing additional time to process its sales and play data, the Multi-State Lottery Association said. 
The jackpot is the largest prize ever in lottery history after it climbed to $2.04 billion on Tuesday and the lump sum for the jackpot was at $997.6 million. But it could be a while before the identity of the Powerball winner is revealed as the winner of the record jackpot has a year to claim their prize, according to the California State Lottery website.
While lottery winners are often advised by financial experts to not tell anyone that they’ve won, only some states allow winners to remain anonymous.
Carolyn Becker, a spokesperson with the California State Lottery, emphasized that only the name of the winner is released in the state as this follows the state’s Public Records Act.
In California, the winner’s name is considered public record and the state lottery said a winner’s full name, the name and location of the retailer that sold the ticket, and the amount of the winnings, including the gross and net installment payments, are all subject to disclosure.
The North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, which is a nonprofit professional trade association that represents all government-sanctioned lotteries in North America, says players cannot remain anonymous in most participating jurisdictions.
“State and provincial lawmakers want the public to know that the lottery is honestly run and so require that at a minimum the name of the winner and their city of residence be made public,” its website states. “This way the public can be reassured that the prize really was paid out to a real person.”
Although each jurisdiction has its own policies for lottery prizes, most jurisdictions say basic winner information is considered public record when it comes to anonymity.
In Oregon, the state lottery has to provide that information in most cases, according to Melanie Mesaros, a spokesperson for the Oregon Lottery. Mesaros added that there are exceptions to the disclosure, such as personal safety concerns or confidential information.
Washington’s Lottery also has similar policies, Kristi Weeks, the director of legal services of the state’s lottery, said. If Washington’s Lottery receives a public records request, it has to provide the name and city or town of residence of the winner. 
“The public policy of this state – that state agencies work for the public and the public is entitled to know how we do our work,” Weeks said. “So exemptions from public records laws have to be clear and explicitly stated. And there just simply isn’t an exemption for all lottery winners.”
Alternatively, winners might be able to form a trust to claim their prize anonymously – depending on their jurisdiction.
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There has been an increase in state legislators pushing to grant anonymity for lottery winners to protect their privacy and identities over recent years. Lawmakers have cited safety and privacy concerns for lottery winners who have their personal information released.
States that grant anonymity each have their own limitations or restrictions, including prize thresholds or a limited time period where a person can remain anonymous. 
Some states have laws that allow lottery prize winners to remain anonymous. Texas passed the Anonymity Bill, HB 59, on Sept. 1, 2017, according to Lauren Callahan, director of media relations of the Texas Lottery Commission.
“The law allows prize winners of $1 million or more to choose to remain anonymous and prohibit all personally identifiable information from being released to the public,” Callahan said. “The anonymity issue only applies to prize winners of $1 million or more who have submitted their tickets after Jan. 1, 2018.”
Here is a list of states that grant anonymity:
Stories of lucky and unlucky winners have been a subject people have been interested in for years – with unlucky stories dubbed as the “Curse of the Lottery.” In 2009, E! Investigates documented how some winners faced bankruptcy, drug addiction and even murder.
Mavis Wanczyk of Massachusetts won the Powerball on Aug. 23, 2017. However, soon after Wanczyk’s $758.7 million win, a stroke of bad luck befell the lottery winner’s name via social media. 
According to a July 2021 story on ABC27.com, after Wanczyk won, “several fake social media accounts popped up using her name claiming she was giving away money in exchange for personal information.”
New text messages then circulated four years later, claiming Wanczyk was donating $5,000 to 200 random individuals who were selected after a “spin ball,” according to ABC27. The text messages also instructed recipients to text a number to receive their money.
This was a scam, and experts say people should never give out their personal information via text message or email to strangers. And if the text message or email looks fishy, it probably is. 
Other winners have shared their stories on how the large prize improved their lives.
Iowa Lottery officials confirmed Lerynne West of Dexter, Iowa, was one of the two winners who split the nearly $700 million Powerball prize in 2018. According to a story on CNBC, the 51-year-old grandmother of six said she almost lost her lottery ticket – she bought it on the day she was moving to a new home.
A LOTTERY CELEBRATION: A 70-year-old woman celebrated winning the lottery by buying another ticket. She won again.
State lotteries recommend players who believe they have a winning jackpot prize ticket sign the ticket, put it in a safe place, seek financial and legal advice, and contact their state lottery to make an appointment to claim the prize.
Winners also undergo a vetting process by their state lottery. Becker said the California State Lottery has a “rigorous vetting process” to ensure that the person who says they’ve won is a legitimate winner. 
The vetting process can take weeks or months before a winner can be declared, according to Becker.
POWERBALL JACKPOT 101: Here’s what to do if you win
Steve Azoury, owner of Azoury Financial in Troy, Michigan, also advised lottery winners to immediately work with tax and financial experts to form a plan – including which payout to choose.
The plan also should include a “fall guy,” Azoury said. “That’s the person or adviser who keeps you from giving loans to anybody, who tells people all the money’s tied up in investments, not available. We have nothing available to help you out and we’re not interested in your project.”  
The decision to choose which payout is dependent on your goals, your age, and what lottery rules are for beneficiaries to continue receiving payments, or if it’s likely you would misuse a lump sum.
Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt, also recommends considering the size of the lottery winning, and your current and project earnings.
Contributing: Medora Lee, USA TODAY; Jennifer Sangalang, Treasure Coast Newspapers

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