The dangers of joining a lottery syndicate

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You might think that winning the lottery would solve all of your problems, but one hairstylist from Indiana is discovering that when you're in a lottery syndicate a win can be a very messy business.

So what happened, and is it ever safe to join a lottery syndicate?


The case

Christina Shaw bought a winning Lottery ticket, now worth $9.5 million, for the February 16 Hoosier Lotto. She was a member of a lottery syndicate with seven other stylists and played the lottery separately herself.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the problem is that she bought the syndicate tickets at the same time as her own. Now she is claiming that the winning ticket was one of the ones that was meant for her alone - while the syndicate is trying to claim its share. They have gone to court in Indianapolis to ask for the jackpot to be frozen until the dispute is cleared up.

ABC News reported that the hearing heard from a number of current and former employees of the salon, who testified that the syndicate had agreed not to buy their individual tickets at the same time as the syndicate ones - for precisely this reason. Under the agreement of the syndicate if anyone did this, the ticket would be treated as belonging to the syndicate.

The judge will make a decision whether or not to freeze the jackpot this week, but we can be sure the fight will continue for weeks or even months to come.

Risks

It's not the first time a battle has erupted after a lottery syndicate win. In 2005 a row started in the UK between 21 syndicate members, after two members won £105,000 on the lottery and banked the cash, claiming that the winning ticket was one they had bought for themselves rather than the syndicate.

And last year, there was a row among New Jersey construction workers, over a $24 million winning ticket that one member said he'd bought for himself. A judge eventually decided he had to share the payout.

Protect yourself

The National Lottery says that syndicates can work, as long as members sign an agreement and stick to it. This includes details of the members, what they contribute each week, and the share of any win they are due.

They also need to agree the games they will play and the numbers they will use, arrangements that will be made if someone doesn't contribute one week, and what happens if someone wants to leave.

Any further arrangements should be detailed separately, and the form should be signed by all members and an independent witness.

However, this will be worthless unless it is stuck to rigidly. The trouble is that when friends are trying to work together like this, there will always be the temptation to bend the rules to help people out.

The fact is that mixing friends and money always raises the possibility of falling out. The question is whether you're willing to risk it for the chance of a lottery win.

What do you think? Would you join a syndicate? Let us know in the comments.

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