Why we may never know who bought the $1.5B lottery ticket in SC

It’s the billion-dollar question after a lottery ticket worth more than $1.5 billion was purchased in South Carolina: Who won?

Details have slowly trickled out since a ticket purchased in the Palmetto State matched the numbers from Tuesday night’s drawing: 5, 28, 62, 65 ,70 and the mega number 5. Late Wednesday morning, officials announced that the winning ticket was sold at a gas station just outside of Greenville.

But who bought that lucky ticket may never be released publicly by the S.C. Education Lottery because South Carolina is one of only a handful of states in the country that allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Seven other states besides South Carolina allow winners to stay anonymous, according to USA Today: Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas.

“Our board established that as a policy simply because, it’s very intrusive what happens,” Hogan Brown, executive director of the S.C. Education Lottery, said Wednesday on CBS This Morning. “Someone could be hurt, someone could be threatened. People come out of the woodwork and they won’t help. It’s their choice; it’s the winner’s choice. They can decide to expose (their self) to publicity if they want to.”

A story by Forbes earlier this year noted several incidents of violence against lottery winners, including the 2016 killing of a Georgia man during a home invasion just two month after he won the lottery, and a Chicago man who won $1 million with a scratch-off ticket in 2012 but died of a cyanide-induced heart attack a day after the check was issued.

Laws that make winners’ identities public help maintain the transparency of lottery wins and the drawing process, according to CNBC. Some states allow winners to create a trust as a way to receive their winnings without being identified.

Just across the state line, in North Carolina, the identity of anyone winning more than $600 is public record, according to The Charlotte Observer. But a trust would not keep the person’s name a secret.

In addition to transparency, The Associated Press reported in 2013 that lotteries argue in support of identifying the winners because it drives ticket sales.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC