EDITORIAL: The right to stay anonymous

It will be interesting to see if the holder of this potentially winning ticket does manage to preserve his or her anonymity.

The potential winner of a $50 million lottery ticket that was sold in Langley in March, 2014 apparently wants to stay anonymous. That’s according to an anonymous source who spoke to a Vancouver newspaper.

The source went on to say that the ticket holder (who isn’t the lottery winner yet, as B.C. Lottery Corporation says it is still conducting an investigation of all circumstances around the winning ticket) has retained a lawyer and will be fighting in court for the right to remain anonymous. That will be an interesting court battle. Given that one generally has to use a name in a court action, which is a public matter (publication bans can be granted by the courts under certain conditions), the anonymity drive may be blown right out of the water.

Word of this desire for anonymity fits in with the other circumstances around this ticket. Despite many pleas, the potential winner only came forward a few days before the one-year deadline to redeem the prize. The news that the apparent holder of a $50 million winning ticket wants to be anonymous has naturally started lots of conversations. Most people may not be aware that claiming a lottery prize comes with the proviso that the BCLC has the right to take the winner’s photo and publicize the win.

While BCLC says this protects the integrity of the process, which it does, it also helps to promote the idea that winning big is possible. It perpetuates the sales pitch that “dreams can come true” simply by buying a lottery ticket. Advertising promoting that idea does not include the actual odds of winning a big prize, which are infinitesmal. Very few lotteries run by provinces or states in North America allow for anonymity, although a few do. BCLC has granted anonymity itself in the past, but only in very rare and exceptional circumstances.

It will be interesting to see if the holder of this potentially winning ticket does manage to preserve his or her anonymity. If that does happen as a result of a court decision, it may force BCLC and, quite likely other Canadian lottery corporations, to change their longstanding rules about who can actually win a prize.

-Black Press