Big Virginia Lottery Winners Will Be Allowed To Stay Anonymous
Wednesday April 10 th 2019
Virginia is to become the latest state to give lottery winners a choice of whether they want to go public or not. The House and Senate have passed a law that will come into effect from July 1st, allowing anyone who wins a prize greater than $10 million to remain anonymous if they wish.
The current Freedom of Information Act compels the Virginia Lottery to release the name, hometown and prize amount of winners. However, critics of the law such as Powhatan delegate Lee Ware said that winners were a ‘magnet for attention’ and argued that they should have the right to stay private. The bill, SB 1060, had to clear several hurdles before it was finally signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.
The new law will not allow anonymity for everyone, as winners of prizes up to $10 million will still have to go public. However, anyone who wins a larger amount, such as a Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, will now have the option to keep their identity hidden.
The Pros and Cons of Anonymity Laws
Virginia has had numerous big winners, such as the state’s first Powerball jackpot winner Dave Honeywell. The Fredericksburg resident, a computer scientist with the Department of Defense, won $217 million in February 2013 after buying a ticket from Richmond International Airport on Superbowl Sunday. Under the existing laws, he had no choice over his name and hometown being released when he came forward.
The new law will give players who choose to stay anonymous extra peace of mind, as many previous winners have been hassled for money, bombarded by media requests and even expressed concerns about their security.
The main argument against anonymity has always been that everyone should be able to see who wins a lottery. The transparency of knowing that games are won by real people shows that everything is fair and encourages others to take part, which in turn leads to increased ticket sales and more money being raised for state causes.
The $10 million figure in Virginia’s new law is understood to have been chosen because that is the highest prize on offer in any of the state’s scratchcards, so there will still be lots of winners who do go public and the transparency of the lottery will remain intact.
Anonymity in Other States
More and more states are introducing legislation regarding anonymity. Winners in Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming can all stay private, while West Virginia also enacted a law recently that allows winners of more than $1 million to remain anonymous if they relinquish five percent of their prize.
In certain other states, such as Louisiana and Pennsylvania, winners can claim their money through legal trusts or limited liability companies, effectively shielding their identities from the public.
It will be fascinating to see whether Virginia’s change in policy has a positive or negative impact on ticket sales for big games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, and whether the first winner of more than $10 million decides to take advantage of the anonymity law.Virginia is to become the latest state to give lottery winners a choice of whether they want to go public. The House and Senate have passed a law that will come into effect from July 1st, allowing anyone who wins a prize greater than $10 million to remain anonymous if they wish.
How to Claim
You’ve scratched your ticket or you’ve checked those winning numbers and you’ve discovered you have a winning ticket!
If you have a winning ticket for which the prize-redemption period expires during the Governor’s declared state of emergency, the Lottery will validate and pay the prize as long as you file your claim by mail or in person at a Customer Service Center no later than 30 days after Virginia’s state of emergency order has been lifted.
Last updated: 6/1/20
Customer Service Centers reopened
The Virginia Lottery is pleased to welcome players back to its Customer Service Centers.* To continue to promote public health and safety, we have adjusted our claims process. Here is everything you need to know before visiting us in person:
*Prize Zone at 600 E. Main St. WILL NOT reopen at this time. Richmond-area winners should visit Prize Zone West at 1620 E. Parham Road.
There will be Virginia Lottery employees available to provide social-distancing directions for the claims process.
Download and complete your claim form prior to your visit.
If possible, print and complete the claim form, found here, prior to arriving.
Ensure you have photo ID and proof of SSN.
You will need to present all required documentation in order for us to process your claim as efficiently as possible. Information about acceptable forms of ID can be found here.
Wear a mask or similar face covering.
The Virginia Lottery will continue to follow the latest public health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Players will be required to wear a mask or similar face covering when visiting any of our Customer Service Centers.
Do not bring guests.
To accommodate social distancing, we are limiting the number of customers in our Customer Service Centers. Please help us accomplish that by not bringing any family or friends with you unless you need their assistance to conduct your transaction.
When you arrive to claim your prize, this will be the process:
- Mask required
- Claim packet will be provided to you
- Sign the back of your ticket
- Have current photo ID
- Have proof of Social Security number: (Social Security card, W-2 tax statement, 2019 tax forms, court papers, military DD214 document or another verifiable residency document). Place documents in packet.
- Circle Visa® Debit card or check for multiple tickets
- No more than 10 people will be allowed in line for an available space which will be designated by a Virginia Lottery decal on the sidewalk.
How to Claim
You’ve scratched your ticket, or you’ve checked those winning numbers. You’ve discovered you have a winning ticket! There’s nothing quite like that feeling of winning. You want to savor it, but you also want to make sure you follow every step in the process of how to claim your lottery winnings.
Before you do anything else, sign your name on the back of the ticket. In fact, it’s a good idea to sign every ticket you buy even before you know if it’s a winner. A ticket is a bearer instrument. By signing it, you protect yourself. Never hand an unsigned ticket to another person unless you are okay with that person claiming a possible prize.
If you won a prize in a Lottery game while playing online, here’s how to claim your prize.
When you play online, it’s easy to get your money quickly. You can receive wins of less than $100 automatically. The money goes right into your player wallet, and you don’t have to do anything to make a claim.
If you win more than $100, you have to file an online claim to receive your money. This process is quick and efficient. We send email updates to let you know the status of your payment, so you can track your money. Remember, you must claim your prize within 180 days or it will expire.
A new way to get paid!
The Lottery wants to make playing our games and claiming any winning prize easy.
The Virginia Lottery is pleased to offer two convenient ways to claim your winnings at our customer service centers and prize zones. You can now choose a check or a Visa debit card for prizes from $10 to $5,000. Keep in mind the Visa debit cards cannot be reloaded with new funds.
How to cash in a winning prize of $600 or less
If the prize is $600 or less, Virginia Lottery retailers may cash it. Keep in mind that many retailers don’t keep large amounts of cash available, for security reasons. Retailers can, however, pay you with a check or money order. If you prefer, you can take it to a Virginia Lottery customer service center, one of the prize zones or claim your prize through the mail. We’ll gladly issue you a check or a Visa debit card for your winnings. The only difference is that you’ll need to provide a valid government-issued photo ID and your social security number or other proof of your social security number if the prize amount is greater than $100.
How to cash in a winning prize over $600
If your prize is more than $600, you can take it to a Virginia Lottery customer service center or one of the prize zones. Below is a list of addresses and phone numbers. Be sure to bring a valid government-issued photo ID and your social security card other proof of your social security number. Double check your photo ID and Social Security card to ensure your name is exactly the same on both documents as they need to match exactly to claim your winnings. When you get there, you’ll fill out a claim form or click here to get the form now. If you have questions about what you need to claim, call 804-692-7000.
Not a U.S citizen but you reside in the U.S.? No problem. Just bring your green card (permanent resident card), a government-issued photo ID (a Visa will work) and an official document displaying your Social Security number. Not a U.S. resident? We’ll just need to see a valid government-issued photo ID.
You can also claim your prize through the mail. Sign your ticket and mail it to: Virginia Lottery Claims, P. O. Box 1254, Richmond, VA, 23218-1254. Be sure to complete the requested information on the back of the ticket so the Lottery knows where to send the check or Visa debit card. If the prize is more than $600, you’ll need to supply a copy of both your government-issued photo ID and your Social Security card. If the prize amount is $600 or less, just include your social security number. It’s a good idea to make copies of the front and back of the ticket, and use registered mail to make sure your ticket arrives safely.
Don’t wait too long
Draw-game tickets expire 180 days after the drawing. Print ‘n Play games expire 180 days after the purchase date. Scratchers expire 180 days after the end of the game. These Scratcher games are currently active or recently ended. If you don’t see that game listed there, that ticket may have expired which means you may be out of luck. We DO NOT Pay on expired tickets.
Lottery prizes are taxable
If you win more than $600 it will be reported to federal and state tax agencies. If you win more than $5,000, taxes will be withheld automatically. Currently, the Lottery is required to withhold 24% for federal taxes and 4% for state taxes. If you win a large prize, it’s a good idea to talk to a tax professional soon after your win to discuss how it will affect your tax situation.
If you owe delinquent debts for things like back taxes or unpaid child support, it will be automatically withheld from prizes greater than $100 claimed at a Lottery office.
Don’t forget that if you win a Virginia Lottery prize, it’s not a secret. All prizes greater than $600 are public record. If you win a large prize, your name and photo might be posted on the Virginia Lottery website and possibly reported in news media. This proves that real people really win Virginia Lottery games. If you never heard about anyone winning the Lottery, would you play?
Acceptable government-Issued photo IDs
To collect a prize, you need to show government-issued photo ID to prove you meet all the criteria to claim a Virginia Lottery prize. If you don’t see the one you use on this list, you may need to get a new ID to claim your prize. The types of photo IDs accepted by the Virginia Lottery are:
- Motor Vehicle Operator’s License
- Photo Identification Card issued by a local, state or federal government agency or entity
- Craft or Trade License issued by local or state government
- Armed Forces Identification
- U. S. Passport or Passport Card
Acceptable SSN documentation
Social Security number documentation is a second requirement to claim your Lottery prize. The following types of documentation can be used to claim a prize from the Virginia Lottery:
- Social Security card issued by the Social Security Administration (Neither a copy of the card nor a metal/plastic reproduction is acceptable for in-office visits)
- W2-G issued by the Virginia Lottery within the past 6 months
- W2 issued for the prior tax year with full social security number
- Federal or State income tax return filed for the prior tax year
- Verification letter from the bank on bank letterhead displaying claimant’s name and social security number (Letter cannot be older than 30 days)
You will need the correct documentation to claim your prize.
Public disclosure of winners
As of July 1, 2019, a new law in Virginia allows winners of prizes greater than $10 million to claim that prize anonymously, meaning the Lottery won’t publicly release the winner’s name or hometown unless the winner gives written permission.
For prizes of $10 million and less, the winner’s name, hometown and photo are public record. Depending on the prize, the Lottery may use the winner’s name, hometown, prize amount and photo for reasonable publicity, social media and other winner awareness!
The Lottery is committed to K-12 public education
Every time you play the Virginia Lottery, kids across the Commonwealth are the real winners. All Lottery profits go to the K-12 public schools in Virginia. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Lottery generated nearly $650 million for K-12 public schools.
The Federal Privacy Act (Public Law 93-579), 5 USC §552a requires that this notice be provided when personal information is collected from individuals.
The Virginia Lottery is subject to the Virginia Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (Va. Code § 2.2-3800, et seq.). Provision of a player’s social security or tax identification number is voluntary; however, the Lottery may be unable to validate and process a prize claim without the number due to the application of the Virginia Lottery Law and the regulations adopted thereunder (Va. Code § 58.1-4000, et seq.; 11 VAC 5-11-10, et seq.), as well as the Virginia Debt Setoff Collection Act (Va. Code § 58.1-520, et seq.). For prizes of $600 or more, the Virginia Lottery requires a player’s social security or tax identification number for tax withholding and reporting purposes, pursuant to 42 USC 405(c)(2)(C)(i), 26 USC 3402(q), 26 USC 6041, 26 C.F.R. 31.3042(q)-1(e) and the regulations enacted thereunder.
Information is collected to validate and process a claim and for promotional, investigative and administrative purposes. By submitting this claim, you consent and agree to such use, and waive any and all claims whether known now or in the future related thereto. The Virginia Lottery is subject to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Va. Code § 2.2-3700, et seq.). Once a prize has been validated, the following facts are public information and may be subject to disclosure: (i) name, (ii) city and state of residence, (iii) game played, (iv) amount won, and (v) date won. For purposes of this subsection, amount won means the nominal prize amount, the cash payment if different from the nominal prize amount, and the cash payment after taxes are withheld. The Virginia Lottery will not disclose any other personal or identifying information without your permission unless legally mandated to do so.You’ve scratched your ticket or you’ve checked those winning numbers and you’ve discovered you have a winning ticket! ]]>