Gordon Powers

Even though lotteries are often labeled a "tax on the stupid," I think most Canadians understand how unlikely it is that their exact numbers will come up.

The chances of winning any prize in a 6/49 type of lottery, for instance, are approximately one in 32. Your odds of winning the jackpot with a single ticket, however, are approximately 14,000,000 to 1.

Despite this, stacks of coworkers regularly throw a few bucks into the office lottery pool in the hopes of winning big. If you're one of them, be sure that everyone agrees on just who owns what before the numbers are spit out of the drum.

While your group's chances of winning are extremely remote, eventually someone always wins something. And that could leave you facing a mob of unruly colleagues demanding their share of the winnings.

Last month, a Barrie steelworker finally won his four-year-old lawsuit against 32 former friends for his share of a $24.5 million lottery jackpot, successfully arguing that he missed out because he was on vacation and that other pool members had agreed to cover his contribution.

Just last week, Ontario's lottery corporation announced it was looking into two separate $50-million Lotto Max group wins after several additional claimants came forward. The prizes remain under dispute and have yet to be awarded.

Don't expect much help here from the various lottery corporations. Although they spend a fair amount of time counselling winners on how to handle their windfalls, they try to steer clear of prickly ownership issues.

If the lottery regulator can't come to a quick decision about who deserves the winnings, the cash will be transferred to the courts where the money will then be awarded through expensive legal claims.

Critics have long called for a simple registration system that can store names associated with a specific account ID. That way, whenever a ticket is purchased under that account number, it automatically belongs to those people who names appear on the account list.

Right now though, you're pretty much on your own once you venture beyond an individual ticket purchase.

Realizing it won't ever be a major issue unless you win big, decide how many people you want in your pool, what you're all willing to wager and fix the amount for the buy-in.