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N.J.consider player protection for big lotto winners

Big lottery winners in N.J. may not have to worry about hundreds of begging letters dropping through their door and thousands of pleading emails and messages in the future.

A bill went before the state Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation on Thursday (A3616) which would allow New Jersey Lottery winners to keep their identities secret forever.

"I think people that win large lottery jackpots become easy targets and may not always have the sophistication to protect themselves at a time when this great attention and wealth falls on them," state Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, a sponsor of the bill, said.

If the spotlight doesn't intimidate you, winners will still be able to opt for the news conference, oversized check and public pomp. It's important that players have the choice, added state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, another sponsor.

"Do I have to tell the world I won? And then you're subject to everyone under the sun coming after you. It's just fair if you want to remain anonymous. You're going to pay the taxes on it. So why do I have to take a picture with somebody holding the big check," he said.

Currently only eight states allow lottery winners to remain private — Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas and South Carolina and even then it doesn't mean complete secrecy.

They can only stay anonymous below a certain earnings threshold or for a certain time period.

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