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Real Talk: The Office Lotto Pool: You In or Out?

Drama surrounding Friday's record-breaking lotto pay out has us asking, is it worth it?
I bought a lottery ticket for the first time last week. I hadn’t planned on playing, but one of my besties cajoled me out of two dollars. Clearly, I didn’t win; otherwise I’d be writing to you from the French Riviera or beachside in Durban, South Africa. But a Black woman in Maryland claims she did.

Mirlande Wilson, a mother of seven, reportedly has a winning Mega Millions ticket, one of three. Wilson went in on a lotto pool with her McDonald’s co-workers, who make little more than $7.50 per hour, for the record-breaking $656 million payout. After taxes, she would get a lump sum of $105 million, or $5.59 million a year for 26 years. And she’s refusing to split the winnings.

”We had a group plan, but I went and played by myself,” Wilson told the New York Post. [The ‘winning’ ticket] wasn’t on the group plan.”

On Friday, the group tickets were left in an office safe at the restaurant, along with a list of those who contributed to the pool. That evening, before the night’s drawing, the owner of the McDonald’s says he gave Wilson $5 to buy more tickets for the pool. Wilson bought those tickets and, she claims, another batch just for her, and one of those happened to have the winning numbers.

Uhh… there’s no other way to put it: That’s shady.

I never went in on the office lotto play at any of my jobs. I’m one of those people that doesn’t gamble, not even in Vegas. I work hard for my money — even two dollars — and giving it away on luck, hope, and a prayer has never appealed to me. Standing in line at my local bodega, I’ve watched plenty of people turning over their cash weekly, hoping to strike it rich, and I’ve always given a figurative shake of my head wondering what they could do with that money if they saved or invested it instead.

Last week, there were long lines of people waiting for a chance to win, and lots of stories about people going overboard, betting twenties and hundreds. Stories of office pools also flooded in from folks like me, who usually offer the “Thanks but no thanks” but when asked this time were suddenly more willing to play because of the large sum looming. And I don’t have to imagine that if someone from the pool had won, they’d want their share, much like Wilson’s co-workers do.

If Wilson does turn out to be the winner — officials have not confirmed that she is — she doesn’t have a way around this one. Yes, she reportedly holds the winning ticket, and possession is nine-tenths of the law, but if she went in with her co-workers, there’s no such thing as “separate tickets.” Other lottery winners have tried her move — to claim the winning numbers weren’t part of the group — and they were sued. The plaintiffs (and their lawyers) got their cut. Surely, if Raheem on fries was holding the winning ticket to the pool, Wilson would expect and deserve her cut.

Wouldn’t you?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk