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The recent OLG announcement that a record $50-million Lotto Max payout  will be delayed indefinitely due to a dispute among claimants raises questions about buying tickets with friends and colleagues.

However, OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti told CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday that people can reduce the chance of a dispute by being conscientious about the rules of their lottery group.

"There's still one winning ticket for $50 million, that's not in dispute," he said. "It's how many people are in this group."

The OLG website encourages group play as a way to better the odds. 

A list of Canadian lottery disputes

In 2007, a conflict over a $21 million Super 7 ticket in Okotos, Alta., resulted in legal arbitration between the 21 claimants. The lottery company placed the money in a trust administered by a lawyer who distributed the undisclosed amounts to the proper winners.  

A Vancouver women sued her former boyfriend in 2006, claiming she was entitled to half of a $12.4 million lotto because she had given him the money to buy the ticket. The two reached an undisclosed settlement out of court.

In 2005, four employees of an A&W in Mission, B.C., went to court over a disputed ticket worth $14.5 million that was purchased by another group of nine employees. The latter were given $1.1 million each by the lottery corporation and the rest was sent for arbitration in the courts.  

"When you pool your money, you have more chances to win," a section devoted to group lotto play states.

It includes a series of guidelines to avoid possible disputes, including a downloadable form to keep track of who is playing.

"There are no special rules that we have for the office space," Bitonti said. 

The OLG recommends that one person act as group leader, organizing the purchases and sending a weekly email with jackpot amount, draw date, cost per play and the cut-off time for payment.

"Have open communication with the group leader," Bitonti said.

Members should ask, "Am I on the list? Did my money go to the ticket?" he suggested.

The group leader should also sign the ticket with their name along with the words "in trust" to signify that the ticket is being purchased by a group.

Members should also ask for a photocopy of each ticket, Bitonti said.

The OLG also suggests determining how money will be divided before the draw date, including how much should be returned for the next week's purchase.

Resolving disputes

Disputes over group lottery do occur but Bitonti said it is fairly rare.

In 2008, a dispute arose over a ticket in Barrie, Ont., among a number of claimants.

"We determined that there were a group of folks that it was indisputable that they paid their money," he said.

Those people were given their share of the prize by the OLG and the rest was held in trust by the courts to determine who were the rightful owners of the rest, Bitonti said.

The 19 members of the Scarborough call centre in the middle of the current dispute will have to wait for their share of the prize — around $2.6 million each — a little while longer.

The OLG is currently undergoing a claims review process to determine how the money will be divided. 

"It could take a couple of days, it could take a couple of weeks," Bitonti said of the investigation. "We're not sure yet."

If there are any unresolved issues following the OLG review, the dispute can end up in legal arbitration.