This morning, a couple from Red Bud, Illinois, were introduced at a press conference as the third winners of the MegaMillions jackpot.  Their take, after taxes and in a lump sum, will be about $110 million.

Good for them, but these people should not have been dragged in front of the cameras.  While the winners from Maryland and Kansas were allowed to remain anonymous, Illinois has a law that forbids anonymity for lottery winners (as does Missouri). That’s a bad law.

I’m sure it’s so lottery officials can get all the free publicity that comes with hauling out the big prop check in an attempt to convince others to play the longshot odds.  Some might argue that you have to announce the winner to prove the integrity of the game, but does that mean there’s no integrity in MegaMillions in the other two states?  You don’t see press conferences like this when the prizes are much smaller, but no one complains about an integrity problem when the winner only gets $1.8 million (or $650,000 or a $3 scratch-and-win).  If huge lotteries are played across state lines, the same rules should apply to everyone everywhere, and that rule should be that lottery officials will not make your name public unless you do.  Your financial information is no one else’s business.

By forcing them onto the stage today, the state has exposed the Red Bud couple to the Vulture Culture, and I don’t just mean the media.  Our world is too full of people who lie in wait to take advantage, and will now inundate this couple with scams, business offers, charity demands, investments, and on and on.  They’ll have people ask them to loan some cash, claiming incredible hardship and then asking, “You have the money, why can’t you help me?”

This morning, the media horde was all over Red Bud and in full overkill mode.  As early as 5am, St. Louis TV and radio stations were doing live shots from the MotoMart where the winning ticket was bought, as if there were anything to report five hours before the press conference.  Now that the winners’ identities are known, the media will do everything it can to invade their privacy and reveal every possible detail of their lives, but I hope the couple will avoid the spotlight as much as possible (you’ll note that I’m not mentioning their names or showing their picture here).

Hopefully, the couple spent the three weeks since the drawing gathering some good financial advice, consulting an attorney, and making plans to keep their family happy for generations to come.  Their lives will be irrevocably altered, but if they handle it right, the spotlight may fade quickly.  My advice to them is to not give any interviews, turn down all requests
from reporters, and stay as far out of the way as possible or risk being run over.

Meanwhile, those state laws forcing winners to be identified should be changed.