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Avoiding Lottery Pool Problems

Tips for managing safe, fair lottery pools.

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Lottery pools are a lot of fun... until you win. Then, if you haven't done your homework, what should be one of the best days of your life can dissolve into bickering and even lawsuits. And that's not even considering whether the person collecting the money is really buying the tickets! Here are tips for running a lottery pool that protects all the participants and avoids problems ranging from lawsuits to bitterness.

1. Assign a Lottery Pool Manager

The first thing that your group should do when setting up a lottery pool is to select one person to be in charge, the lottery pool manager. The manager is in charge of getting the word out about the lottery pool, managing who is participating, making sure everyone knows and has agreed to the rules, buying the lottery tickets (or designating someone else to), keeping the tickets safe, and collecting and distributing any wins, as well as any other organizational questions that come up.

Having one person in charge helps avoid any mistakes or confusion, and it also gives people a clear point of contact if they have questions.

2. Agree on a Lottery Pool Contract

A lottery pool contract ensures that everyone is on the same page with the specifics of how the pool works. This avoids hard feelings and the misunderstandings that can lead to lawsuits.

The contract should spell out the answers to questions ranging from which tickets will be purchased to how funds are distributed if the pool wins.

Every participant should have a copy of the lottery pool contract, and the pool manager should have a copy with every participant's signature on it.

3. Make a List that Shows Who's Participating

Some of the lawsuits against winning lottery pools in the past have been brought by someone who thought they were participating, when they weren't. If your lottery pool allows people to participate in some drawings and opt out of others, make sure that everyone has an opportunity to participate, and everyone knows who's in and who's out.

ABC News shares the story of a lottery pool lawsuit that this step could have prevented. Three people sued their coworkers when they were left out of a lottery pool that won a $118 million prize in May of 2012. This list, along with a good lottery pool contract, could have avoided the lawsuit.

4. Make Copies of All Purchased Tickets.

Making copies of the lottery pool's tickets serves two important functions: it lets the participants know that the tickets were really purchased, and it resolves any questions about whether the tickets really won or not.

The lottery pool manager, or a person he or she designates, should make copies of both the front and the back of each ticket. The front side of the ticket shows the winning numbers, while the back side has a serial number that can be used for identification.

Every person participating in the pool should receive a copy of the tickets. For additional security, the lottery pool manager can also ask each person to sign a copy of the tickets, to show that each person received their copy.

Here's an example of a lawsuit that this simple step could have prevented: Spokesman.com shares the story of a lawsuit where Americo Lopes was found guilty of cheating his co-workers out of a $38.5 million Mega Millions jackpot. Lopes bought tickets for his office lottery pool, but claimed that he bought the winning ticket privately. Distributing copies of the group's tickets to his lottery pool could have avoided the lawsuit by showing whether the ticket he cashed in was part of the pool or not.

5. Keep the Pool's Lottery Tickets in a Safe, Accessible Place

The lottery pool manager, or someone he or she designates, should make sure that the tickets are in a safe place. Ideal is a safe at the workplace, if you're participating in an office pool, or a similar location.

The lottery pool members should be able to request to see the actual tickets. This alleviates any fears that the copies of the tickets have been falsified.

6. For Any Legal Questions, Contact an Experienced Lawyer

Note that I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended to be a collection of practical tips to create a fair lottery pool. If you want legal advice before starting or joining a lottery pool, be sure to speak with a lawyer who is experienced in relevant issues.

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