Who won the lottery?

Winston-Salem resident David Settle has won three times since 2010 playing a state lottery scratch-off game.” He’s won $100,000 twice and split a $3 million prize with his wife.

Amazing, huh? What are the odds?

Under legislation proposed in the state House — and not going anywhere this year, thank goodness — the public wouldn’t get to know that Settle has won three times or that anyone has won, unless the winner permits it.

This proposed change – by a Wake County Democrat – is just the latest silliness to come out of Raleigh this session. But it’s dangerous just the same. Right now, the names of lottery winners must be disclosed to the public. The thinking is that public disclosure helps ensure both honesty within the system and the credibility of the system.

The state is “giving away” millions of dollars to individuals. If the names of the recipients are kept secret, who knows what kinds of shenanigans would occur? And if you don’t think they would occur, you haven’t been following state politics for long.

Citizens ought to be skeptical whenever a legislator wants to hide the public’s business from the public.

The bill’s sponsor said he realized that lottery winners might be targets of scam artists.¬†Well, yes. So are is everyone. In fact, some might say that the lottery itself is a bit of a scam, given your chances of winning a big jackpot are one-in-a-kazillion.

7 thoughts on “Who won the lottery?

  1. It’s mind-boggling that the bill’s sponsor doesn’t see the need for transparency here.

    Oh, and the state is not “giving away” millions of dollars. It’s giving away millions of dollars.

  2. By the way, the probability that a particular person will win the lottery more than once is extremely small. But the probability that someone, somewhere, will win the lottery more than once isn’t so small.

    You can check the logic (and hence the math) by asking the same question regarding a single winner. The probability that you, John Robinson, will win the next lottery (assuming you play) is very small. The probability that someone, somewhere, in the state will win it is quite high.

  3. A final thought: Does the bill’s sponsor have any evidence that people are unwilling to play the lottery due to fears that scam artists will target them if they win? Does anyone believe that such fears are actually deterring lottery players?

  4. Not sure I agree that with this sentence: “The thinking is that public disclosure helps ensure both honesty within the system and the credibility of the system.”

    My take is that public disclosure is an opportunity for the lottery to promote a winner and thus juice participation in the lottery. Also, just because a lottery winner isn’t publicized doesn’t mean the winner is secret. As the article you referenced stated: “State law now requires that the names of lottery winners be publicized, but House Bill 516 would disclose their names only if they consent. Also, the names would be handed over to state and federal tax authorities and to the courts in cases where there is an outstanding judgment against a winner.”

    I’d say the IRS is a pretty good check on the system and if they craft the language carefully (a big if I know) they could come up with other ways to safeguard the system without broadcasting the winners’ names to the world at large.

  5. Serious question: What ARE the odds that someone could do what Mr. Settle has done? The figure is probably somewhere up there with surviving both a shark attack and being struck by lightning. In fact, depending on how much time you spend in the water, it could be much higher.

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