Employment attorney weighs in on risks of office lottery pools

published in The Oklahoman | April 8, 2012

In her Sunday column, “Out and About,” The Oklahoman business editor Clytie Bunyan wrote about how a group of 17 workers at an Oklahoma City company almost hit the March 30th Mega Millions lottery, missing out on their share of the record-breaking $656 million jackpot by just one digit on one of the numbers. Nevertheless, the participating workers won a total of more than $10,000 from their pooled purchase of $250 worth of tickets. The winnings were distributed proportionally based on each person’s original contribution to the office pool.

Employment attorney Charlie Plumb, who was interviewed for the story “Office pool misses $656 million lottery jackpot by one little digit,” said he typically discourages office pools, as they can become problematic when the size of the prize, the number of participants, and the complexity of the competition increases. “You always run the risk of someone claiming unfairness or not understanding what the rules were,” he said. “Any time you have an exchange of money and some risk, and the focal point is the workplace, it could be a recipe for problems.”

In this particular instance, Plumb complimented the workers at Urban Dealight of Oklahoma City for properly documenting and obtaining written acknowledgements – in advance – of each person’s individual contributions to the office pool.

Plumb’s closing advice to employers and participating workers alike was to be very careful when deciding whether to start an office pool, particularly when a lot of people are involved and a lot of money is at risk.