Aug. 22, 2013 – Playing the lottery is fun, and each dollar we spend on lottery games contributes to good causes in our state. It also gives us all a chance to daydream, and in the office, those dreams are often of mass retirement with no regard for the struggles of hiring managers.
But while office pools can significantly increase your chances of winning the jackpot, they also present the danger that one member of the group or more could feel slighted. Perhaps the individual who bought the tickets for the group will try to cheat others out of their fair share.
You really don’t know someone until the fate of a few million dollars is in their hands.
So, in the interest of keeping things fun, here’s a few keys to protecting yourself in the office lottery pool.
Choose People You Can Trust
Knowing the people you’re handing a few dollars to before each drawing is the most important part of joining in on the fun. You wouldn’t ask your subway neighbor to go buy lottery tickets for you, would you? Be sure that the people in your lottery pool are people you see every day, and who you don’t think would disappear once they got their hands on a big-winning ticket.
That doesn’t mean you need to exclude co-workers you don’t know very well – strength in numbers works both ways. If one member of the group tries to pull something tricky, they’ll know that several others are going to be, well, more than disappointed.
The Multi-State Lottery Association also suggests you choose a leader for your ragtag band of lottery players. Someone who always collects the money, buys the tickets, and keeps the group informed on the numbers played, the drawing dates, and any winnings that might be coming your way (more on this later). Naturally, the choice of leader should be agreed upon, and the leader should definitely be trustworthy.
Get it in Ink
Here it is – the legal step. You don’t need to hire a lawyer, write down complicated rules, or spell out every detail if you don’t want to. Simply having a piece of paper on hand that says you’ve all entered into an agreement to share lottery winnings is enough, just be sure everyone signs it. A signature means someone witnessed the agreement, and these documents can be brought into court as evidence, if a lawsuit becomes necessary.
It may also a good idea to keep track of how much everyone contributes. While divvying up winnings based on percentages may not be on anyone’s list of favorite things, it would technically be fair. In the end, you’ll probably decide to split everything evenly, but keeping track of contributions can also help settle any disputes about who was in the pool and who wasn’t. Some people only join in when jackpots get very high, so having a record of when they contributed and how much could be helpful if they decide to join in on a potentially lucrative lawsuit.
Of course, if you’re really worried about how things might play out if you hit the jackpot, go see a lawyer. A contract drafted by a lawyer will likely be air-tight, and nobody will have anything to worry about.
Drawings for the multi-state lotteries are later at night, so you don’t need to gather on someone’s couch to watch the numbers drop. But this is a pool – it’s a social thing as well as gambling, so make sure everyone is on the same page.
The easiest way to do this is to make photocopies of your lottery tickets after you’ve purchased them – the front, with the numbers, and the back, with the serial number and signature. Hand the copies out ahead of the drawing. That way everyone has not only a physical record that they’ve joined the pool, but also a copy of the ticket to check against the television or the internet themselves.
Photocopying the group’s tickets can also guard against mixing up personal tickets with those bought by pooled money. A group of hairstylists from Indiana recently settled a dispute in which one member of the group said she’d bought herself a ticket along with the group’s numbers, but they thought she’d broken their agreement (which they didn’t “get in ink”!)
That group had agreed that whoever bought the tickets for the lottery pool could not buy personal tickets at the same time or the same location – a great idea to consider when sending someone out to spend lottery pool money.
These three steps are fairly basic, but often overlooked. Too often you hear of friendly lottery pools turning into bitter legal disputes simply because the members didn’t think to write down the rules, sign an agreement, and play together. The odds are still against you even with the whole office playing, so don’t ever forget that your lottery pool is for fun – even after you get your hands on that winning ticket.