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Are March Madness Pools Legal at Law Firms?

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 14, 2013 9:48 AM

As the one-time head of a law firm’s “fun committee,” I understand the importance of injecting a little frivolity into an otherwise bland work week. I also understand the importance of confirming that your light-hearted fun complies with the law.

(Maybe I know someone who once accidentally ran an unsanctioned bingo operation out of a law firm.)

There are obviously-illegal pursuits — like hookers and drugs — which law firms strictly avoid. At least, firms should strictly avoid them. But even seemingly-harmless activities like March Madness pools can raise a few regulatory eyebrows.

While the laws isn't widely enforced, March Madness pools are pretty much illegal. BusinessWeek explains:

March Madness may be America's largest annual ritual of collective lawbreaking. A 2009 Microsoft survey estimated that 58 million Americans fill out brackets, and according to Las Vegas oddsmaker, about $12 billion is wagered on the tournament.

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."

There are four states with statutorily-approved, pre-existing sports gaming laws that received exemptions from the Bradley Act: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana, according to Bloomberg. The Washington Post reports that Nevada and Delaware remain the only states where betters can legally gamble on college and pro sports. (New Jersey is engaged in federal court battle to be added to that list.)

Breaking the law at a law firm? Not the best idea. If you're planning a March Madness pool at your firm, and your practice isn't located in an Bradley-exempt state, maybe the prize should be bragging rights instead of money.

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