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Should You Join the Office Lottery Syndicate?

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Joining a lottery syndicate might seem to be a harmless diversion from a dull day, but the reality of winning as part of a syndicate has its own set of complexities. For 22 workers at KraftMaid in Youngstown, Ohio, their August 2011 winnings bought a lawsuit from their colleague Edward Hairston for a share of the $99 million prize money (about $1.8 million dollars), as he couldn't play due to being on sick leave despite having contributed to the pool for eight years.

Some are serious enough to draw up a “winnings contract” between syndicate players should there be a winner, reducing the chances of a selfish someone trying to pull a fast-one. Allocating a syndicate manager (usually done through the website of the lottery you're playing), a strict stipulation of syndicate rules and having a legally-binding syndicate agreement are common practices. After all, a lawsuit can prevent members from accessing their winnings, and perhaps even losing most of it after the court case has finished thanks to legal costs.

For long-time players who miss out on substantial sums of money due to late or non-payment, losing can be a harsh and bitter pill to take. Some even feel duped out of their winnings should there be informal agreements and customary “covering” systems in place, whereby others pay for another member should they forget or can't afford to play that particular week. Such is the case for Jeanette French, who assumed that her ticket had been paid for by the other members of the syndicate due to her not being in work on the day the pool money was collected. Not unusually, French filed a lawsuit for her share of the $16 million winnings $1.1 million with her included, $1.3 million dollars without).

Despite the tales of nasty court cases and embittered co-workers, there are several advantages to pooling your resources and playing as a syndicate. For one, your chances of winning are boosted considerably, with around a quarter of all lottery wins coming from lottery syndicates. The greater the numbers of people partaking, the more likely you are going to end up a winner. Of course, this comes with the downside of less money as it has to be shared around, but the winnings can still be considerable if the numbers are limited or the jackpot is especially large. Just don't quit your job immediately upon hearing the “good news” should your syndicate win – it might just end up being enough for a new car or a holiday, rather than a lifetime of sipping rums in an alcove on a private beach.

The second main benefit of playing lotteries as a syndicate is the cost: it's cheaper to play as a syndicate and the pound goes further due to the odds being increased. Plus, it is far easier to control one's gambling habits if they're playing in a group setting, and there are limits to the amount that can be contributed by any one player.

The third and least often mentioned benefit of playing lotteries as a syndicate is that more lotteries can be entered. Not just the National Lottery and Euromillions, but lotteries in the US and other parts of the world as well, significantly boosting the chances of winning by spreading the bets around. Therefore, rather than just spending £5 on one lottery draw, it could be far more advantageous to play as a syndicate in five different lotteries.

All in all, playing the lottery as a syndicate is a serious game, even if it initially seems like a bit of frivolous fun. Managers should find out if there's a lottery syndicate in their workplace, and put in contingency plans should your workers win (though it's so unlikely, it's an unusual thing to think about). Stagecoach in Corby found this out the hard way, when twelve of its drivers didn't turn up for work the next morning after winning the £38 million Euromillions jackpot in March 2012. Lucky for some, eh?


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