Be careful with those Powerball office pools

ASSOCIATED PRESSMay 17, 2013 

In workplaces across the nation, Americans are inviting their colleagues to chip in $2 for a Powerball ticket and a shared daydream.

The office lottery pool is a way to improve your odds and have a little fun with co-workers. And besides, who wants to be the only person at work the next day when everyone quits?

With $600 million on the line, this is the time to play. It's the largest-ever Powerball jackpot and the second-largest world jackpot of all time. It could get even bigger before Saturday's drawing.

The Multi-State Lottery Association recognizes the popularity of work pools, especially when the stakes are so high. In the last few years, lottery officials have offered tips for organizing pools.

"The appeal is they can stretch the value of their $2," said Norm Lingle, executive director of the South Dakota Lottery and chairman of the Powerball Executive Committee.

But it's important to be careful. Workplace pools that yield big jackpots sometimes result in lawsuits, broken friendships and delayed payouts. Follow these steps to make sure you're ready to divide your winnings.

Know the rules

Lottery officials encourage pools organizers to lay down rules, put them in writing and distribute the details to all participants before the winning numbers are drawn.

Linda Golden of Gettysburg, Pa., might set the bar for how to manage an office lottery pool. An employee for more than three decades at a printing company called Quad Graphics, Golden has organized a pool for years and requires everyone to sign in, showing they contributed. She had 14 co-workers on board when the jackpot pushed past $200 million in late March.

They only won $4. But instead of distributing what would have amounted to about 27 cents a person, Golden bought more tickets for the $1 million Powerball drawing March 27 without telling the others. She hit the jackpot and never considered keeping the winnings for herself.

After taxes, each person ended up with about $50,000.

Good, bad and ugly

If you're the person buying the tickets, make sure co-workers are aware if you plan to buy personal tickets on the side.

That didn't happen in Indianapolis, where a hairdresser became involved in a lawsuit with seven of her former co-workers.

Christina Shaw claims the winning ticket wasn't part of an office pool. The hairstylists say they had all verbally agreed to share any winnings from any tickets purchased at the same time as those for the pool. The lawsuit followed.

Plan for the (practically?) impossible

It's smart to plan. But it also can feel silly to plan for something that almost is impossible to win. Or is it?

The chances of winning the latest jackpot are about 1 in 175.2 million. That's how many ways a person can combine the numbers to make a play. But Sinins said it's still important to consider what would happen if you beat the odds.

"If there was no chance, you wouldn't do it," he said. "And you obviously want to do it. So you want to make sure that there's no problem afterward."

POLL QUESTION

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