2/5/18 - Atlanta - Senator Steve Henson, D - Stone Mountain, presents SB 331, which would allow lottery winners to remain anonymous, which passed the chamber. The Georgia senate later passed a compromise over a major overhaul to make adoptions easier in the state. Gov. Nathan Deal and legislative leaders say adoption is a priority for this session. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Georgia Senate passes bill that would give lottery winners anonymity

A proposal that would allow Georgia lottery winners to remain anonymous took an important step forward Monday.

The state Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that allows any Georgian who wins more than $250,000 in a lottery to keep their name from being disclosed. The bill’s proponents have said eight states have laws that allow winners partial or complete anonymity. The legislation now goes to the state House of Representatives.

The lawmakers who drafted Senate Bill 331 said the legislation is necessary to shield winners from people attempting scams to steal some or the entire prize.

“I think it protects our public and I think actually it may enhance the sale of lottery tickets when people know they will not be exposed and have their name put out before the public and make them the victim of a crime,” Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, told fellow lawmakers about the bill Monday.

The bill’s critics worry such a law would cloud transparency and raise questions about whether winners fairly won their prize.

“When you make lottery winnings secret, it opens the door to shenanigans,” Georgia First Amendment Foundation president Richard Griffiths said in an interview. “The public has the right to know the lottery is open and transparent.”

Griffiths said the foundation will urge House members to “think it through.”

Lottery proceeds help fund the state’s HOPE college scholarship program.

Senate lawmakers added an amendment that does not require winners to pay the state for costs associated with keeping their names private. The bill initially allows the state to collect up to four percent of the winnings for such costs. The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, said Monday he believes such costs would be low.

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Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this article.