Monday, April 9, 2012

Lotteries, Luck, and a Smidgeon of Law

With $640 Million Dollars up for grabs last week, chances are some of our readers caught the Mega Millions lottery fever! Nationwide three winning tickets were sold, one each in Maryland, Illinois, and Kansas. Mirlande Wilson, a 37 year-old Maryland woman, claims to have purchased the winning ticket. But she has a slight problem: a dozen of her coworkers with whom she participated in an office pool for that drawing are irate. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time lottery winners have been accused of cutting out fellow pool players. Litigating lottery “luck” is actually quite popular. Americo Lopes of New Jersey won a sizable jackpot in 2010.  Unfortunately for him, the winning ticket was one he purchased with pooled money from his coworkers. Coworkers who subsequently sued him. Less than a month ago, a jury returned a civil verdict against Mr. Lopes. Lest you find yourself in similar straits, FindLaw has a few good tips for participation in office pools and their legality in your jurisdiction. It is also an excellent resource for lottery-related law, including a database of state lottery laws. If Lady Luck was on your side, and you won more than the money required for a cup o’ joe, keep in mind that you aren't as rich as you think you are and make sure you pay your federal and state taxes

For an interesting read on the long sordid history of lotteries, and the legal means used to prohibit and regulate them, check out Law of Lotteries, Frauds, and Obscenity in the Mails, by John Lilburn Thomas (1903).  This title is available electronically at the Gallagher Law Library through HeinOnline's Legal Classics Library.

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