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How to set up a lottery syndicate

Updated on December 3, 2010

Nine months ago I decided to set up a lottery syndicate in my workplace.  I am not a gambler by nature but I play the lottery for fun.   When I don't win, I console myself with the thought that at least I am helping to raise money for good causes.    I am lucky enough to work in a building with approximately 40 colleagues.  Some of us already played various lottery games individually and would regularly discuss news reports of lucky people who had won life-changing amounts of money.  Some of these winners were playing as syndicates and it would make headline news when a work team won the lottery.   We used to fantasise about what we would do if our team won the jackpot.  Would we carry on working?  Or would we resign and sail off into the sunset?   There was only one problem.  We weren’t playing as a team.

The obvious solution was to set up our own syndicate.   A few of us discussed it and I was picked as the person most likely to run it efficiently.  I was very happy with that as I had secretly always fancied running a lottery syndicate.  But I had to bear in mind that I am a busy person and I value my sanity.  There is great scope for things to go wrong in a syndicate.   I wanted them to go right. The very first thing I did was to look at websites that give advice to syndicate managers.  Then I printed off a recommended legal contract.   Basically, you add terms and conditions specific to your syndicate and make sure that all members sign the contract.   I think it is vitally important to be formal and legal so that there are no misunderstandings at any stage.  There are absolutely no guarantees that a syndicate will win any money. The best way to think about it is as a fun game in which you might win some money.  If you are lucky enough to win anything, the contract spells out clearly what happens next.

As soon as I understood the legalities and my responsibilities as a syndicate manager, I set about forming the syndicate.  I sent an email to everyone in my workplace.   That was the easiest method of contacting everyone as we all work different shift hours and I can go for days without seeing some colleagues.  It also meant that everyone received the invitation to join at the same time and I had a written record of this.  I have continued to use this method of contact.

The initial email asked people if they were interested in joining a lottery syndicate.   It also asked which games people would like to play and whether anyone had a suggestion for what the syndicate should be called.  I set a deadline of 2 weeks for colleagues to reply to me.  This was the first of many deadlines I have set in the past few months and I have kept to them all.  That is very important if I am to remain sane.

At the end of the 2 weeks I had the names of 10 colleagues who were interested, details of the games they wanted to play and one suggestion for what to call the syndicate.  I liked the name and have used it ever since.  The consensus was that we should play the Lotto game every Wednesday and Saturday.  One colleague wanted to play the Euromillions game as well but was outvoted by the other colleagues.  That is how we have made decisions all along.  The majority vote wins.   I think it is very important to let syndicate members influence the way things work.  It gives them ownership and buoys them up if they ever have doubts about remaining in the syndicate.   I might be the manager but it is their syndicate.  I then sent a second email to the 10 colleagues to let them know what we were doing and set a deadline for signing the contract and paying their money so we could play our first game.

What did I put on the contract?  It obviously lists the names of all the syndicate members.  It states that we will buy tickets for 8 weeks at a time.  I didn’t want to play continuously by direct debit because I figured it might be difficult to get everyone to pay up.  In fact, I have not had any problems collecting the money.   But buying a new ticket every 8 weeks has the added advantage of letting us change our numbers regularly.   If not playing continuously, 8 weeks is the longest you can play for before you have to buy another ticket in the UK.  It also means that I don’t have to ask members for money too often.

The contract states that members must pay in advance before tickets are bought, and that any small prizes will be reinvested in games at the end of the 8 weeks.  A major prize would be shared equally as cash among all participating members.  The contract deals with the thorny issue of members not paying up by saying any member can take a payment holiday at any time by opting out of paying towards an 8 week ticket.  However, it also says that members taking a payment holiday are not eligible for a share in prizes won on that particular ticket. Nobody has yet opted to take a payment holiday!  Instead they pay me well in advance in order not to miss out.

Many members felt strongly that they did not want publicity in the event of a major prize so I included that on the contract.  One last clause dealt with the possibility of members leaving our workplace.  I didn't want the complication of having to refund ticket money.  So we decided that anyone who leaves work can stay in the syndicate until the current ticket expires.  After that, they leave the syndicate.  My sanity is at stake here.  Forgive me if it sounds selfish, but I don't need the complication of trying to collect money from someone I never see.

As soon as everyone had signed the contract and paid their first instalment, I bought the first 8 week ticket.  I gave a copy of this ticket and the signed contract to all members.   Nobody had picked any numbers to use so I always buy “lucky dip” tickets which select the numbers at random.   I recommend that method because it prevents the possibility of mixing up members' numbers.  Remember, I am trying to stay sane and to enjoy the game as well.

I always buy the tickets online.  This saves me a lot of time as I don’t have to complete play slips, go to a shop and queue to pay.   Every time I buy a new ticket, I give a copy to everyone.  We all know each other and they all trust me.   Some of them never look at their ticket but simply wait for me to let them know if we have won any prizes.   Others share the fun by watching the lottery draws and checking their ticket.  There are 11 members including me. We all pay for 16 games at a time. That gives us 176 chances of sharing a prize and is the beauty of playing as part of a syndicate.

It might all seem very complicated.  But, in my experience, if you take time to set things up correctly they go like clockwork.  Everyone in our syndicate is very happy.  Our 2 games every week are small highlights to look forward to even when we don’t win.  We now have a waiting list of people waiting to join!   The general feeling is that the syndicate should not get any bigger. There is a fine line between increasing the chances of winning and increasing the burden of administering a large syndicate.   As manager, I am enjoying playing the games and have even managed to stay sane.

I have to repeat that the lottery is a game of luck and chance.  You can win something or nothing. Every syndicate will achieve different results so I won’t give exact details of what we have won. We are all still at work (!), but we have had great fun and even managed to win some prizes.  I hope this article helps anyone who is thinking of setting up a lottery syndicate.

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