ATLANTA -- Big money Georgia lottery winners could stay anonymous under a bill passed by the state Senate Monday. The bill removes their names from open records requirements.

The bill allows lottery winners to request anonymity when they claim their prizes. Backers say it is in the interest of public safety.

State law currently does not require photographs of winners with oversized checks. Those winners do that voluntarily. But state law does require a name and a hometown to be disclosed if requested under the state open records act. The bill that passed the senate today would eliminate that requirement – letting prize winners decide if their names should remain a state secret.

Sen. Steve Henson (D-Stone Mountain), the Senate minority leader, sponsored the measure. He says some lottery winners have been targeted by criminals after their names became public.

"Whatever concerns some may have about transparency, they’re overridden by the fact that we’re protecting people who are winners from being the victims of crime, and in the long run I think this will be a better way to do it," Henson said.

First amendment advocates say the lack of transparency makes potential corruption a greater likelihood. The Republican led Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly. It goes to the House now.