Mega Millions and Powerball lottery: Office pools are 'a serious contract' that require planning

Just $2 and six numbers stand between you and a Mega Millions $750 million jackpot or Powerball’s $640 million loot.

On Wednesday, there was no Powerball winner either, meaning the $640 million drawing on Saturday will be the fifth-largest in the lottery’s history.

If you’re looking to increase your odds of winning the Mega Millions from 1 in 302,575,350 to maybe 10 in 302,575,350 or play a better bet with Powerball’s odds of 1 in 292,200,000 without spending more money, a pool with friends or colleagues might be for you.

The more people contribute to the pool, the more diluted the individual payouts — but even a fraction of several hundred million dollars is better than nothing. If spending a few bucks feeds your fantasy of quitting your job and retiring to a life of riches and leisure, then so be it.

“People go in on these lottery pools, whether they’re at work or at home with friends,” Rubin Sinins, attorney and partner with Javerbaum Wurgaft, told Yahoo Money, “And it’s a lark. No one really considers they’re really going to win, or really considers that this is a serious contract that you’re entering into.”

Money has a tendency to complicate relationships and “makes people do funny things,” Sinins said, so winning an unearthly sum of money would assuredly do that. Here’s what you should know about office pools.

Do’s

Check with your company’s HR department if you’re coordinating an office lottery pool. Any fantasies about submitting a joint resignation letter with a dozen signatures can quickly fizzle if your company considers gambling at work cause for suspension or termination.

Lottery pools, Oscar picks, March Madness brackets, or Super Bowl squares are fun ways to connect with colleagues, but it’s all considered gambling and some companies have hardline policies against employees engaging in such activities.

Designate an organized and plugged-in leader who can be entrusted to not only collect money and buy tickets that can be kept in a secured location, but to also keep everyone in the pool apprised of specifics like other pool members and copies of tickets.

“The safest course is to be completely transparent and above board,” Sinins said. But “most people don’t take the time to do those very basic things.”

Don’ts

Resist the urge toannounce your status as a newly minted-millionaire even if it’s a group of you to maintain your personal safety.

“I don’t think bragging is a good strategy,” Sinins said and added that “nothing positive” will come from publicly announcing your winnings. With such a massive windfall of cash, consult a lawyer, CPA, or financial advisor to help you make smart and informed financial decisions.

Don’t use cash for the office pool. Instead, pools should exclusively use peer-to-peer apps like PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle to seamlessly pay shares and keep an electronic record of payment and participation. A public and electronic record will shut down the onslaught of inevitable opportunists stepping forward trying to claim a piece of the pie.

“While this is obviously a lot of fun and can bring camaraderie to a workplace,” Sinins said, “it’s a potential recipe for disaster unless you take it somewhat seriously.”

Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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