Is your company gearing up for March Madness? After all, a March Madness office pool seems like a harmless reason to gather 'round the proverbial water cooler to swap stories -- and money.
But alas, most March Madness office pools for money are illegal.
Are you and your employees going to be hauled off to the slammer for running an illegal March Madness office pool?
Most March Madness Pools' Legality
March Madness pools are pretty much illegal, according to Businessweek.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, also known as the Bradley Act, makes it unlawful to bet, gamble, or wager "on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games."
According to Businessweek, only four states are exempted from the Bradley Act: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana.
If your office pool involves the Internet, then you may also have to worry about the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006. It's a federal law that prohibits accepting payments related to gambling. The act contains an exception for fantasy sports, "which may or may not include March Madness, depending on who you ask," Businessweek reports.
Precautions Employers Should Take
In reality, the odds of facing prosecution for a casual, small-scale March Madness office pool are slim to none. But if legal trouble were to follow, it would largely fall on the employer's shoulders.
You may want to ask yourself the following questions to help limit your liability for a March Madness pool:
- What's your state's definition of gambling?
- Does your state allow social gambling?
- Are you following state and federal employment laws?
- Do you have a March Madness company policy? (Pro-tip: Set guidelines that require participants to keep office pool stakes low -- such as cheesy prizes instead of cold hard cash -- and make sure the pool separates gambling from work.)
Because the law varies significantly state by state, you may want consult an experienced gaming lawyer or an employment law attorney to learn your local law.
Editor's Note, March 8, 2016: This post was first published in March 2014. It has since been updated.
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