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Got Powerball mania? Tips for the office pool

The Powerball jackpot has grown to a record $425 million, prompting many to form office pools to increase their odds, as astronomical as they might be. (AP image)

With the Powerball lottery jackpot expected to hit a record $425 million for Wednesday’s drawing, plenty of people are joining together to buy a bunch of tickets in office pools. But if you’re going to be one of them, you might want to take a few steps to avoid getting scammed, just in case lightning strikes.

Although the odds of winning are astronomical, it’s certainly not unheard of. And neither is someone trying to rip off the winnings. Earlier this year a jury ruled in favor of a group of New Jersey office workers who sued the guy who ran their office pool. They successfully argued he swindled them out of a $38.5 million jackpot after claiming he had bought the tickets separately.

So if you’re going in search of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, lottery officials have a few suggestions to help keep things kosher.

“Put something in writing, even on a napkin, that says when we win, we all win,” says Arlen Harris with the Washington State Lottery.

Harris says sales have been soaring in Washington for the multi-state drawing, with people buying nearly $1 million in Powerball tickets Sunday alone. Officials estimate retailers across the state could sell upwards of 5 million of the $2 tickets by Wednesday night’s Powerball drawing.

If you decide to go in with the group, there are also a number of other steps to take.

New Jersey State Lottery Executive Director Carole Hedinger tells the LA Times it’s important to designate an official leader. That person should be trustworthy and well organized. They should be the ones in charge of collecting the money, buying the tickets and keeping everyone up to date on the numbers picked.

Perhaps most importantly, that person should also promise not to buy separate tickets apart from the pool, unless they clearly disclose it before hand and show everyone which tickets are theirs to avoid a dispute after the drawing.

The leader should also be the official record keeper. Officials recommend that person make copies of all lottery tickets [front and back] purchased with pool money prior to the drawing for everyone in the pool. It’s a bit of a pain, but it’s the best way to keep everyone on the up and up.

The rules are also extremely important, although they don’t have to be overly complex. The big things to keep in mind, Hedinger says: Set a deadline for collecting cash. Determine who is eligible to play. Who holds the tickets? Will the group go for a lump sum or yearly payouts on the off chance they win? How will the winnings be collected and paid out?

Harris says once the leader buys the tickets, it’s important to sign the backs. That way, they can’t be stolen. And he points out since there’s no real way to guarantee everything will go off without a hitch, perhaps the most important thing is to go in with people you trust.

It might all seem a bit nit-picky, but considering the amount at stake, it’s worth it. Just ask Americo Lopes, the guy in New Jersey who still argues the jackpot should have been all his.

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