No, there’s no maximum security prison in your immediate future. But that doesn’t mean that your office bracket tournament is legal either. Even just small sums of money put up to gamble on college basketball winners and losers is likely illegal in your state. That means that Jim (or Nancy) in accounting could report your office pool to the authorities.
A law called The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act states that betting on any sporting event outside of Las Vegas is illegal. On top of that, most states have laws shutting down all types of gambling that isn’t state sponsored, such as casinos and the lottery. But while the government is cracking down on gambling websites that have been attempting to skirt this law, like FanDuel and Draft Kings, it is highly unlikely that your meager office pool is under scrutiny.
The American Gaming Association estimates that over $9 billion is being wagered on March Madness games right now and that most of those bets are illegal. But that doesn’t mean that you or your co-workers are in any real danger. In fact, estimates also show that nearly 1 in 5 Americans participate in some form of office gambling. But you almost never hear about reports of arrests for these office gambling pools. That’s because most office pools are small and without fanfare.
So here are some tips to keep your March Madness tourney under wraps…
Don’t play for big money
The only arrests that have been documented are when people are playing for thousands of dollars…or hundreds of thousands. Having an office pool should be fun but doesn’t need to involve life-changing sums of money.
Keep it in your local office
If you start accepting money from employees that live in other states, things start to get murkier in the legal department. Keep the wager confined to your immediate co-workers.
Don’t post about it on social media
It’s unlikely that mentioning your office pool or eventual winnings on Facebook is going to lead to any sort of interest or investigation. But be smart — avoid it.
Don’t take a cut for running the pool
This goes against all social norms and opens you up to more legal controversy. Don’t take a cut of the pool. It’s a bad move all around.
Make sure your company is OK with it
This is where you are most likely to get in trouble. If you are attempting to start an office pool and your human resources department has rules against it, that could lead to trouble. Ask your boss or HR manager before jumping in with both feet.
March Madness is a ton of fun. And you are more likely to get struck by lightning than your office pool is to get taken down by a SWAT team. But make sure you follow these rules to keep your workplace wagers above board, even if they aren’t technically legal.