Better to go solo?

Playing the lottery with friends is a tricky proposition. On the one hand – and this is generally where I stand on the matter – there are bound to be problems if you win, disputes about who gets what, who owes what, and who is included. On the other hand, talk about fear of missing out. Can you imagine how you would feel if your coworkers won the lottery and you had declined their offer to join their pool?

In a situation (somewhat) reminiscent of the Lotto episode of “The Office” (Season 8, Episode 3), a group of friends won the lottery and another friend that was normally a part of their lottery pool, but had not paid up for that drawing and was therefore not included, was left out in the cold. The kicker: he is now suing the 16 friends and former colleagues for his share of the CAD $1 million prize.

Believes he was part of the group

In June 2021, won the $1 million on a Lotto Max ticket in the Ontario lottery. Philip Tsotsos had been a regular participant in the lottery pool with his colleagues at an auto parts delivery company. In an interview with CBC, however, he admitted that he didn’t always pay his share right away, though that was never a problem. His friends who ran the pool and collected everyone’s money frequently let him play on credit, he said, but he always paid what he owed.

Tsotsos, who had left the company and was working as a pizza deliver driver, said he was asked by a former colleague last June if he still wanted to be a part of the pool, as there was a big drawing coming. He said, “Of course I’m in.”

According to court documents, Tsotsos did have a lottery pool tab of $30 at the time, which pool organizer Steven Todesco reminded him of via text. Todesco said that if he wanted to stay in the pool, he had to pay the $30 plus the $10 for the new ticket.

“This Friday I will, 40,” Tsotsos texted back, “Actually I won’t have to pay you anything. Just take it out of our winnings when we win.”

So there is possible evidence that Tsotsos had not paid for his ticket and could therefore be excluded from the pool, but Todesco replied, “Ha, OK, but I charge interest, a high interest rate. I have kids to feed lol,” which Tsotsos believes indicates that immediate payment was not necessary to be part of the group at that time.

Jesse Reid, who assisted Todesco in running the pool, also texted Tsotsos, saying that he needed to pay $10 to stay in, and Tsotsos confirmed that he was, in fact, still in.

“Ok, just wanted it in writing before the draw lol,” Reid wrote back.

Didn’t find out about the win for months

The group then ended up winning $1 million, but Tsotsos did not know until October 2021. He had just brought them a free pizza from his job when he looked on social media and saw one of the group holding up the big promotional winning check.

“How would you feel? That hurt more than anything,” he said.

And so now Tsotsos is suing all 16 people in the group for $70,000 plus other costs, including interest, as he claims he is the 17th member of the lottery pool.

Each person in the group won about $62,500; it would have been just shy of $59,000 with Tsotsos.

“It’s crappy what they’re doing to me. I don’t wish them anything bad. I wish them nothing but success in life, but why ruin my dream?”

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