N.H. Officials to Powerball Winner: Sorry, Rules are Rules

Feb 12, 2018

An employee at Reeds Ferry Market in Merrimack, which sold the $560m winning Powerball ticket.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

The state Attorney General’s office says disclosing the name of lottery winners in New Hampshire “is not something done for the sake of curiosity or sales promotion,” but instead is a crucial step to ensure the Lottery Commission operates with integrity and accountability.

That’s according to a legal response filed in Superior Court on Monday in the case of Jane Doe vs. New Hampshire Lottery Commission, in which a suddenly wealthy New Hampshire woman is attempting to stay out of the spotlight following a $560-million Powerball drawing.

[You can find NHPR’s previous coverage of this story here.]

After purchasing the single winning ticket in the January  6th Powerball drawing—the seventh largest jackpot in U.S. history—the woman, identified in court paperwork only as Jane Doe, followed the directions on the state Lottery Commission’s website and signed her name to the back of the ticket.

However, after consulting with an attorney, Jane Doe was informed that her name would be public record under New Hampshire’s Right to Know laws.

Through her counsel, she filed a complaint in Superior Court requesting that she be allowed to “white out” her personal identity on the ticket and replace it with the name of a newly created trust. The name of the trust would be publicly available, but the person it is linked to—in this case, Jane Doe—would remain anonymous.

However, under state Lottery Commission rules, any alterations to the back of a winning ticket could disqualify the ticket.

Jane Doe is asking a judge to allow her to alter the ticket because of the unwanted attention lottery winners often receive, in the form of scams, endless solicitation and threats of violence.

“She is a long-time resident of New Hampshire and is an engaged community member,” reads her request. “She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.”

In its response, the state Attorney General’s office is asking the Court to dismiss Jane Doe’s petition.

“[The winner’s] desire for normalcy and anonymity is substantially outweighed by the public’s right to transparency in the operation of lottery games,” writes the AG’s office. Lawyers for the state contend that all lottery participants “play the game” subject to the applicable rules already in place, and that there is no justification in this scenario to bend them.

A judge in Nashua is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Tuesday morning.