What Lottery Pools Are and How They Work
Boost Your Odds — Without Paying More Money
Have you ever seen one of those mega lottery jackpots giving away hundreds of millions of dollars and thought, “I’d be happy to win just a fraction of that amount?” If so, a lottery pool might be for you.
What Are Lottery Pools?
Lottery pools let you get better odds of winning a lottery without paying more money for tickets. A group of people pools their money together to buy lottery tickets. If any of the tickets they buy wins, they then split the pot. Sometimes, the pool members agree to let smaller prizes “roll over” by purchasing more tickets with them, instead of cashing out.
The result is a trade-off: The odds of winning rise, but the payout drops.
How Lottery Pools Work
Here’s an example: your office lottery pool has 50 members. Each of your coworkers contributes a dollar into the pool. The lottery pool manager then buys 50 lottery tickets at $1 apiece and holds them safely until the lottery drawing.
Now, say that lottery pool was very lucky and won a $50 million lottery jackpot. Each of the coworkers who participated will receive a million dollars (before taxes, of course). For the $1 buy-in, the lottery pool participants had 50 times the chance of winning for 1/50th of the total prize value.
Some lottery pools are more complicated. For example, some let people buy more “shares” of the pool by contributing more money. If one of the participants in the example above had contributed $5 instead of $1, and the lottery pool manager had used the extra money to buy 55 tickets instead of 50, that big spender would be eligible to receive 5/55ths of the jackpot instead of 1/50th.
What Do Lottery Pools Do With Smaller Prizes?
Of course, it’s much easier to win $5 in a lottery than $50 million, and $5 divided by 50. well, it’s hardly even worth doing the division to split the money among the lottery pool participants. So what do lottery pools do with small prizes?
There are two options, depending on the size of the prize. The lottery pool can either divide the small sum between the participants or, if the group buys lottery tickets regularly, they can choose to put the prize amount toward buying more tickets for the next lottery drawing.
For example, if the pool hit a $10 prize, instead of giving $0.20 to each participant, they could agree to buy $10 worth of additional tickets in the next drawing.
Do Lottery Pools Work?
The chances of winning the lottery are very small no matter what you do, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll hit a jackpot. But lottery pools do let you boost your chances without increasing your risk of losing your investment.
Lottery pools have won big jackpots in the past. For example:
- A 49-person office lottery pool at SEPTA, a Pennsylvania transit agency, won a Powerball jackpot for $172.7 million in April of 2012.
- A 7-person office lottery pool at New York State’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal in Albany split a $319 million Mega Millions jackpot in March of 2011.
- An office lottery pool at Quaker Oats that shared a $241 million Powerball jackpot among 20 employees. A few months later, they won a $10,000+ prize as well.
- After 20 years of trying, the Mountaineer 26 lottery pool scored a million-dollar jackpot.
- In July of 2018, 11 coworkers decided at the last minute to form a pool to buy Mega Millions tickets. They won $543 million.
- In August of 2018, a group of 11 officemates hit a $4.9 million prize. They’d been chipping in $3 a week for four years!
Who Participates in Lottery Pools?
Office lottery pools are popular because it’s easy to get a big group of people to chip in a few bucks toward a chance of winning. A pool also encourages people to get to know one another across departments and can boost morale.
But any group of people can create their own lottery pool. Groups of friends or relatives, your local sweepstakes club, neighbors in an apartment complex, or members of any other social group might be interested in participating.
Do Lottery Pools Ever Cause Problems?
Unfortunately, yes. With a lot of money on the line, people can act badly and try to cheat fellow players. Lottery pool members have been sued for various reasons, including conflicts over who participated in the pool, whether tickets were purchased privately or for the group, whether the proper numbers were played, and more.
There have also been cases where unscrupulous people collected money for lottery pools then pocketed the cash without ever buying the tickets. These problems can be avoided with a little preparation.
Are Lottery Pools Legal?
Depending on your location, lottery pools may be restricted or illegal, so it’s important to check before you decide to start one. Lottery pools are a form of gambling. In the United States, there are no federal laws prohibiting gambling, but individual states can, and do, regulate it. If gambling is prohibited in your state, lottery pools are as well.
If you’re wondering whether playing the lottery is legal in your state, check whether your state runs a lottery. If your state has no lottery, it’s a strong indication that gambling might be illegal.
You can also search for your state’s gambling laws. Findlaw.com has a list of gambling and lottery laws by state which could help.
Does Your Workplace Prohibit Lottery Pools?
Aside from laws prohibiting gambling, you also want to be sure that your workplace does not prohibit lottery pools during work hours. In some companies, gambling on the job is a fireable offense.
Before you start an office lottery pool, check your business’ code of conduct or employee handbook to see if there’s a no-gambling policy. If you’re still not sure, check with your company’s human resources department.
If you are a government employee or a civilian working at a government facility, you face additional restrictions. Lottery pools that take place “on Government-owned or leased property or on duty for the Government” are prohibited, according to Cornell Law School.
Before you get started, check with local laws and with your company’s human resources department (if you’re starting an office lottery pool) to ensure you are not breaking any laws or guidelines that could turn a fun lottery pool into a serious problem. If you decide to go ahead with your pool, make sure you have a good contract to protect yourself and your coworkers. Good luck!
Thinking of joining a lottery pool? Here's everything you need to know including how lotto pools work and how to avoid problems and misunderstandings.
Did a group of Princeton graduates figure out a secret to winning lotto scratch tickets?
TORONTO — At least four Princeton University graduates have won millions of dollars by purchasing thousands of scratch and win tickets in the U.S., according to a news report that tracked their winnings over the last year and a half and across multiple states.
Earlier this month, an Indianapolis Star investigation reported on the unusual lotto winnings of Manuel Montori and at least three other young alumni from Princeton who are all connected to an entity founded by Montori called Black Swan Capital LLC.
According to the report, the group has won more than US$6 million combined from Indiana, Missouri, Washington and the District of Columbia, and could have potentially spent more than US$2 million purchasing thousands of scratch tickets from stores, gas stations, and other lottery kiosks across the far flung corners of one state alone.
“I would guess they spent an awful lot more than that, on the assumption that they are actually playing on the up and up,” Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at University of California at Berkeley, told CTV’s News Channel Thursday.
The most popular theory is that the group’s actions are based on a common strategy of looking at public records for data on lottery winnings, ticket sales, and unclaimed prizes to determine when to best purchase a ticket, and increasing their odds of winning with bulk purchases.
“If you think about it, if you buy every ticket to a scratcher game, you’re guaranteed to win all the prizes,” Stark said.
“They might be able to increase their odds by keeping track of what prizes have been claimed and which ones haven’t and starting to buy tickets only when there is a disproportionate number of big, unclaimed prizes.’
But Stark cautioned this strategy is not without risks, as they are trusting that no one else has bought the winning tickets and won’t buy those tickets while they are still trying to collect the rest. He pointed to Indiana, in particular, where the Indianapolis Star reported the group spent $48,000 to buy 1,600 tickets from one location alone, going back repeatedly until the game sold out. Given how many other places they visited across the state for this particular scratch game and how much the winning pot was worth, it was possible the group lost money on that particular effort, the paper speculated.
Still, a similar effort in Missouri appeared to have paid off, netting the group a big, US$5 million windfall, according to the report. A US$1 million prize was collected on behalf of Black Swan.
Despite the unusual circumstances, lottery experts and statisticians have told the media there is nothing to indicate anything illegal or suspicious was happening.
“Based on what we’ve heard so far, there’s nothing fishy going on. There’s nothing wrong with keeping track of public records of what prizes have been claimed,” Stark said.
“Where things would get illegal or at least unethical is if they’ve figured out some way to tell without actually scratching off the scratcher which ones are winners.”
The group has not spoken publicly so far about what they are doing, though member Zoe Buonaiuto did tell the paper to “call back in a year” and that whatever they were doing was “exciting.”
A woman scratches a $30 instant ticket while playing the lottery at Ted’s Stateline Mobil on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Methuen, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
At least four Princeton graduates have won millions of dollars by purchasing thousands of scratch and win tickets in the U.S., according to a news report that tracked their winnings over the last year and a half and across multiple states.