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The dreaded office lottery pool? Well sometimes!

lotto-maxNineteen Toronto co-workers who won Friday’s $50-million Lotto Max jackpot have learned how quickly an office lottery pool can become a nightmare. The group of winners cannot claim their winnings until the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLGC) has finished its investigation after other co-workers stepped forward to say they deserve part of the payout.

With $50 million split between 19 people, each winner would receive approximately $2.6 million.

The OLGC said in a statement that “additional claimants had come forward to claim an interest in the prize,” which was the biggest Ontario payout won by a single ticket.

According to the Globe and Mail, an employee familiar with the conflict said the winning group once included 29 people. Several people had been asked to pitch in for the pool and had declined, the employee said, while other regular participants were away on vacation when the money was collected.

However, the woman who organized the pool apparently has documentation, in the form of emails and lists of those who had paid up, which confirms “who was in and who wasn’t”.

Despite such documentation, the lottery win has changed the dynamic in the office and, according to some, the tension is brutal.

Well, there is a better way to document office lottery pools to avoid such conflicts.

Office lottery pools are quite common and can be organized to avoid potential for legal squabbling and concerns about any kind of gambling on employer premises.

It is strongly recommended that when employees want to start an office lottery pool, they always consult and obtain management approval first.

Employees should always put a lottery pool agreement in place, write down the game they are playing, with the names of all the members, who administers the pool, what happens with any winnings and what happens if a member has not paid her or his share. If there is a dispute, they will have this document to answer any questions.

The pool administrator must keep accurate records of which workers have entered each pool. It is suggested to have each player sign on at the outset of each session. The pool administrator should also communicate the rules to each pool member at the outset of each new pool.

Provide copies of the agreements and of the tickets to all members. Scan or photocopy them and retain the original documents for a specified length of time.

Robert Smithson, a labour and employment lawyer recommends the following (in addition to the steps above), and I totally agree with him:

First, the office lottery pool should not be a single, long-running, continuous affair. It needs to have clear breaks. One way to do this is to halt the pool once a big jackpot has been won. Use up any remaining free tickets, distribute any accumulated winnings, and allow a clear break in time before the next pool makes a fresh start. This allows existing players to abandon the pool and new ones to enter without ever muddying the waters of entitlement to winnings.

Second, the group of poolies must be clearly established at the outset of a pool and diligently controlled throughout.

Third, once the pool has commenced, no new poolies should be allowed to join until the current pool ends and a new one is commenced. I call this the “no Johnny-come-latelies” rule. This prevents late-arriving players from laying claim to winnings to which they did not contribute.

Fourth, a poolie entering the pool must commit to staying in for whatever number of weeks it takes for the jackpot to be won and the current pool to wrap up. I call this the “Hotel California” rule (fans of the Eagles will understand why). This prevents poolies abandoning ship and then claiming a share of winnings obtained after they left.

Follow these rules and you’ll be well on your way to a dispute-free jackpot experience.

Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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One thought on “The dreaded office lottery pool? Well sometimes!
  • Andrew says:

    Great advise Yosie! As a workplace human rights consultant, I was once involved in a situation where an employee claimed she was being discriminated against because she was not included in the office lottery pool! In this case the employees preferred to limit their pool to those employees working in the immediate area. The complainant worked in another area of the same office. Make sure ALL employees are welcome to join or make it very clear what the criteria for membership is.