Bell employees disputing $50-million lottery win

19 workers claimed the prize but other co-workers say they have are also entitled to the winnings

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLGC) is investigating a $50-million winning Lotto Max ticket claimed by 19 Bell Canada office workers in Toronto.

The 19 workers came forward with the winning ticket after the draw on Dec. 31, but since then several other co-workers have claimed they are owed a share of the winnings.

The office pool leader, Natalie Damianidis, said she has a list of the 19 office workers who paid to part of the draw.

The OLGC will be interviewing all individuals involved in the dispute to determine how the winnings should be awarded.

Office lottery pools can lead to workplace disputes when big money is involved. A disputed lottery win by Powco Steel employees in Barrie, Ont., in 2008 ended last month after a $4-million settlement was paid to four workers who believed they should have been part of the winning group.

One of the four had been vacationing in Poland at the time of the lottery win and claimed he had made arrangements with another pool member to make his pool-payments for him while he was on vacation.

A clear written agreement among members of a lottery pool can help prevent these kinds of disputes when big money is involved, Nick Bala, a professor of contract law at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., told the Vancouver Sun.

The agreement should address what happens if employees who normally contribute to the pool didn't because of illness or vacation and how free tickets won in previous weeks are accounted for.

Not all office lottery pool wins end in controversy. A $40-million jackpot won by a group of four Ottawa Nav Canada workers in late 2008 was awarded without incident.

This isn't the first time some of these employees have won the lottery. Four of the 19 workers were part of a group of Bell employees who won $1 million with Encoure in 2007.

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