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Responsible lotto group play can prevent disputes

While many players may not value their importance, documents like group play forms or lottery pool contracts may mean the difference between sharing in a large jackpot or receiving nothing, Toronto lawyer Michael Cochrane says on a recent episode of BTZ Law TV.

BTZ Law TV features informative legal news videos — with host and Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP partner Lorne Honickman — that provide insight and information into the many legal questions and issues that you face every day.

In a segment on group lottery pools, Cochrane, a firm partner who has acted in lotto disputes, explains how players can protect themselves.

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“It’s usually a group lottery situation that we’re consulted about,” says Cochrane, noting such pools tend to function well until someone comes back to the workplace with a winning ticket.

“There can then be a dispute about who’s actually supposed to be sharing in that jackpot. This can be whether it’s $200,000 or $300,000 or $50 million,” says Cochrane.

“The problems come up when we have to go back as lawyers and analyze who was responsible for that ticket, who was the group leader, who are the members of the group, how do they become members of the group, did everybody put their money in, did somebody pay in advance, did somebody go on vacation that week?”

An “intense examination” must take place in light of disagreements around winnings, specifically looking at how the group played in the past, says Cochrane.

And as forms of lottery continue popping up all over the world, Cochrane says the issues are becoming widespread.

“We’re starting to see a bit of a pattern where the problems arise,” he says. “Often it comes down to the way the group leader has managed the group.”

Simply having the ticket and writing the names of the week’s participants on the back isn’t enough, says Cochrane.

“You really need to have a contract,” he says. “Every single week you should be establishing a fresh list that is signed by people that have contributed their money. If you’re the group leader, make sure the group understands the rules.”

While recent disputes have centred around a participant’s share in the winnings, Cochrane says it’s only a matter of time before a group leader is accused of not fulfilling his or her role.

“What if people have chosen agreed-upon numbers but the group leader doesn’t fulfill his or her end and go and buy the ticket, and that’s the week the numbers come up?”

Cochrane has developed a lottery pool contract he says players can review, and they should also look at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG)’s group play form.

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