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Lotteries - Group Play

lottery jackpot pool money

It has become quite common for groups of people to pool their money and buy lottery tickets, particularly for very large jackpots. According to California lottery officials, 30% of that state's jackpots are won by multiple winners on one ticket. Group wins are beneficial to the lotteries from a public relations standpoint. They generate more media coverage than solo wins and expose a wider group of friends, relatives, and coworkers to the idea that lotteries are winnable.

In 2001 the California lottery started the Lotto Captain program to help so-called group leaders manage lotto pools. Lotto captains have access to a special Web site that gives them tips on organizing and running group play. They can download and print forms that help them track players, games, dates, and jackpots. As an incentive, Lotto Captains can participate in special drawings for cash and prizes. Lottery officials are extremely pleased with the program's success, as far more people enrolled to be captains than was expected. These are hard-core players who promote lottery games, recruit new players, and provide valuable feedback about lottery promotions. In January 2004 the Missouri Lottery started is own Lottery Captain program for group-play organizers.

Still, pooling arrangements, even if between only two people, can lead to all kinds of legal headaches if a group actually wins a jackpot.

In May 2001 a group of twenty-three cabdrivers working at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport won a $49 million jackpot in the Big Game. Before the money could be paid out, it was frozen by lottery officials when seven other cabbies filed a lawsuit contending that they were also part of the winning lottery pool. The man heading the pool was accused of sloppy record keeping in regards to who was participating in each lottery. In addition, the plaintiffs contend that they regularly participated in the pool, and it was understood that small amounts won would be pooled together to buy more tickets in the next lottery. They believe that even though they did not directly contribute to the pool that purchased the big jackpot ticket, they are still entitled to a share of the money.

Also in 2001, a New York judge awarded $1.6 million to a Brooklyn woman who sued her former live-in boyfriend for breach of oral contract after he secretly collected a $7 million jackpot from a lottery ticket they had purchased while together in 1999. Although the defendant denied ever agreeing to split lottery winnings with the plaintiff, a clerk at the store where the ticket was purchased testified to the contrary. The plaintiff was awarded half of the after-tax amount of the jackpot. The defendant also had to pay $200,000 in punitive damages and attorney fees.

A California woman lost all of her $1.3 million jackpot in 2001 after a court found that she had fraudulently concealed the award from her husband. After winning, the woman sought advice from lottery officials about how to conceal the award from her husband. They advised her to get divorced before her first annuity check arrived. The woman did so and never declared the money as an asset during the divorce proceedings. This lack of disclosure was ultimately discovered by the ex-husband. Under California law, a court can award 100% of an undisclosed asset, plus attorneys' fees, to one spouse if the other spouse commits oppression, fraud, or malice during divorce proceedings.

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