PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) — Mega Millions mania is sweeping across Northeast Ohio.

The jackpot of $810 million is the nation’s fourth largest ever, and at the Valero on Pearl Road in Parma Heights the lotto machines were going full tilt Monday night.

“I’ve never seen so many people play the lottery,” said Valero employee Cindy Marten, “Oh my goodness, it has been super busy.”

The location has had winners in the past. Some who lined up hoping lady luck would strike again.

“In 2009 I won $100,000,” said Diane Krous. “This time I’d give it to my grandkids.” 

Other hopefuls talked about paying off debt and traveling.

Charmaine Salupo said she and her husband would head to Aruba.

“We’re both steelworkers so this is definitely a dream for us.”

The chance of a single ticket matching all six numbers is 1 in 302 million, but many feel the odds are better if you’re in an office pool, because you can purchase more tickets. However, with those increased odds can come additional problems if you aren’t careful.

“No one thinks we’re really going to win and that’s the reason why people get into difficulties,” said Professor Andrew Pollis, JD, CWRU School of Law.

In 2011, a Northeast Ohio factory employee who was usually in the pool was off with an injury when his coworkers won $99 million.

He sued and settled out of court.

To avoid lawsuits, Professor Pollis says, anyone buying tickets with a group should establish a set of rules and put them in writing.

“You say upfront what the terms are going to be and you also anticipate upfront what will happen if somebody logistically, illness, whatever doesn’t get his or her money in in time, does that mean the person isn’t in the pool that week? Or do we all agree that everybody will be in the pool every week?” said Pollis.

Other details that should be predetermined include: 

  • Whether or not the group will go public
  • Who and how the ticket will be redeemed
  • Who will be the “trustee” purchasing the tickets and if they are permitted to buy their own tickets on the side

In 2003, that became an issue when 20 Englewood, New Jersey, hospital workers sued a co-worker and accused him of using their lotto pool money to buy a $25 million winning ticket and then secretly giving it to his neighbor.

“The best thing is to have agreement up front that the person will not buy his or her own separate ticket to avoid that very problem,” said Pollis.

If that’s not possible he recommends labeling or clearly marketing the tickets before the drawing, and photocopying, photographing or texting the numbers to everyone in the pool.

The same goes for romantic relationships. If the couple is married, a winning ticket becomes part of the marital assets. However, if the couple is separated, you may want to talk to a lawyer before even buying a ticket.

And if you do win, Pollis has this advice:

“Step 1: put the ticket in a fireproof safe. Step 2: find or call a trusted lawyer who will walk you through the tax consequences, make sure there isn’t anybody else who might have a claim to the money, and talk about the anonymity issues,” Pollis said.

This is all so you can spend your time celebrating and not litigating your earnings.