Lottery syndicates, whether tiny living room outfits or large pools affiliated to major lotteries, can be a great way for players to improve their chances of scooping a jackpot. A ‘syndicate’ is just a fancy name for a group of gamblers who decide to pool tickets and share prize money in the event of a win.
Although old-style syndicates are built on trust and have traditionally been built by friends or families, online pools have become increasingly popular in recent years, and there are more ways than ever to get involved.
Informal workplace or family-run syndicates do not typically require regulatory oversight as long as tickets are only bought in one person’s name (the syndicate manager). However, an organiser who purchases tickets in the names of other group members may be classed as a promoter and should acquire a licence to operate legally.
Lack of regulation means that players who take part in a 'family and friends' syndicate must place a great deal of trust in their chosen punters. In fact, even in situations where close friends become lottery partners, it's a good idea to have a lawyer draw up a legal agreement outlining how potential winnings will be distributed among members: will the pot be divided equally? Who is the syndicate manager? How long can the manager hold funds before re-distribution takes place?
Players who are thinking about joining online syndicates should start by reading conditions and checking sites for security stamps. Popular online syndicate providers like Congalotto guarantee payouts, encrypt all user transactions and have sites tested by third-party security specialists. Unlike in relation to 'real life' syndicates based on verbal agreements, these sites should be heavily regulated and must display evidence of accreditation by national or territorial bodies – online providers who don't have this documentation may be operating illegally and should be avoided. As an aside, it's important to note that many online lottery providers (syndicates or otherwise) do not actually enter players into draws, but instead act as concierges by accepting bets on lottery outcomes.
Some syndicates are tied to one lottery, while others only cover draws that take place in a single country. A third group of syndicates operates internationally and pools tickets for several different lotteries at once. Professional sites such as PlayLottery offer users the chance to place syndicate bets on virtually all the world's largest draws, including those that punters mightn't have access to otherwise – UK players can gamble on Spain's La Primitiva or try their hand at the Powerball, for instance.
Syndicate jackpot sizes depend on two factors: the number of members in the syndicate in question, and the payout structure of the lottery or lotteries entered by the group. Players joining large syndicates will have to decide whether they're happy to buy tickets for smaller jackpots even if this may result in extremely low payouts. Members of smaller groups, on the other hand, may be quite happy with the idea of gunning for a sub-£100,000 prize split two or three ways. Other syndicate variants based on Bonus Ball draws often pay only small sums and are sometimes organised in support of charitable causes.
Given that most online operators depend on strangers opting to join the same syndicate with no prior contact with one another, it's a good idea to check whether the site guarantees that groups will be completely filled before the draw happens. Punters should make themselves aware of what will happen if such an agreement isn't in place, as there's a possibility that an unscrupulous provider could invalidate bets and pocket stakes.
Gamblers should also bear in mind that online outfits offer differing levels of support. Some sites such as LoveMyLotto have professional customer service teams on hand to answer first-timers' questions, while others operate fairly bare-bones arrangements and expect users to find their own way. Finally, players should check the transaction options on online syndicate sites before placing bets: most operators accept a variety of payment methods and make it easy to withdraw winnings, but seasoned players who have dedicated bank cards or e-wallets should ensure that their account type is supported.