Get wise to the lottery law or your luck could run out

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A solicitor specialising in lottery law warned this week that thousands of informal syndicates are courting disaster by not drawing up watertight agreements.

Nigel Adams, whose firm is based in Dulwich, south London, said: "Every week life-changing things happen to the financial health of several people in the UK. They win a jackpot share, or part of a huge second-tier prize, but they potentially jeopardise this with some poor organisation."

He said that recent cases in East Yorkshire, Essex and Buckinghamshire had highlighted the danger. He said: "The lackadaisical set-up of these syndicates throws into sharp focus issues such as who paid for the tickets, were photocopies of agreements and tickets properly distributed and how much leeway can you give to members who were late paying their dues?"

The nine-strong syndicate in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire, was particularly kind to one of its members. She was ill when the ticket was being bought and her boss credited her with her £1 contribution. They shared £7.2m, so the lucky lady collected £800,000. Without her, the others would have shared an extra £100,000 each.

But disputed lottery tickets have led to bitter rows, some of which may reach court. In south London, the father of a syndicate member claims he is the owner of a £6m ticket. These feuds are likely to become even more dramatic with the prizes of up to £50m being offered on the new Euromillions draw. Mr Adams said: "People should get their syndicate agreement in writing, or they might find themselves involved in a County Court or High Court action."

Camelot, which operates the National Lottery, has a free Syndicate manager software package which the public can download. The software checks ticket numbers and keeps track of payments and winnings.

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