More than a dozen call-centre-workers-turned-millionaires celebrated with mimosas and a limo ride through downtown Toronto after a Lotto Max dispute was partly resolved.
On Monday, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced a group of Bell Canada employees had agreed to split the $50-million prize 30 ways until the courts can determine whether or not a second group is entitled to part of the winnings.
The 19 people who initially came forward to claim the jackpot for the New Year’s Eve draw each received about $1.7 million, including interest, for a total of almost $32 million.
The rest of the winnings – more than $18 million – will be handed over to a court, which will decide whom, if anyone, in a second group of 11 is entitled to part of the winnings.
Those claimants hired a lawyer after the OLG declared the first group of co-workers the winners on Jan. 3, but have not yet filed their lawsuit.
Saul Glober, the lawyer for the group of 19, says those not in the original group have no right to the prize.
“We’re quite confident that these 19 are the only legitimate owners of the winning ticket,” Glober said, calling the other claimants “dissidents.”
“I think the process has gone on long enough. We’ll get the other (shares) soon enough.”
The OLG says the group’s leader, Natalie Damianidis, had documented the process well. But it investigated nonetheless, asking pool members how long they had been playing together and where the ticket was bought, among other questions. Interviews are standard for prizes of $10,000 or more.
“Nineteen people were on the list; nineteen people paid,” Damianidis said.
“I think I did everything by the book. I had my list. I had my book on my desk for everyone to see.”
Meanwhile, the undisputed winners are enjoying their newfound wealth.
“It’s a dream,” Bell manager Frances Cowan said at a press conference on Monday afternoon. “It’s a hundred-per-cent dream. It’s been a month and we’re all still pinching ourselves. We can’t wait to get out there and do everything we want to do.”
The OLG is also probing a second, similar situation which emerged later in the month, when 24 Bombardier employees claimed the Jan. 28 $50-million Lotto Max prize. In that case as well, co-workers came forward saying they were wrongly excluded from the winnings.
To avoid these types of disagreements, the OLG says those playing in a group should fill out a form available on its website every time they play.
It also recommends players make sure the group leader got their money and ask for a photocopy of the ticket.
For more tips on playing in a lottery pool, visit the OLG website.