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March Madness: Is your Office Pool Legal?

March Madness: Is your Office Pool Legal?

 

It’s March. We made it through the murk of January and February; the days are getting warmer and longer. Football is over. Baseball is still in training. That leaves only one thing: March Madness! For many of us, now’s the time we begin to pore over our brackets, covet the TV remote and obsess over every article and statistic we can get our hands on. We haven’t seen our families since Super Bowl Sunday. But in the end, it’ll all be worth it when we win that office pool. Snatching victory from Susan, the front desk receptionist, who has inexplicably won the last four years. Not this year Susan. Not. This. Year.

But hold on there, Michael Jordan. Are you sure that office pool is even legal? Or are you part of some illegal gambling ring, in danger of a police crackdown any day now? Read on to find out…and share this blog with Susan. Don’t let her go down for this.

Legalized Gambling in Maryland

According to the American Gaming Association, office betting on such things as March Madness is illegal in 37 out of 50 states. And yes, Maryland is one of them. The remaining 13 states either have some exemptions for friendly wagers in which no one profits, or allow individual counties to develop their own laws to govern pool betting. Even so, the AGA estimated that 97% of the $10 billion wagered on March Madness brackets in 2018 was wagered illegally. Who knows if anyone was actually arrested? Nonetheless, if you create an office pool or participate in one, you are violating state and local gambling laws. While some forms of gambling are legal in Maryland (Horse betting, lotteries, casinos, etc.) sports betting remains illegal.

Office Rules

State and federal legality aside, perhaps the first question you should ask yourself before setting up or partaking in your office pool is: “does my employer allow this?” Regardless of gambling’s legality on the streets, your boss or company policies may restrict gambling within the walls of your office. Although office pools, like March Madness brackets, can oftentimes boost morale and camaraderie among co-workers, companies may choose to ban such activities for a number of reasons:

  1. Liability: because sports betting is illegal in Maryland, any company found to have an office pool going on could become subject to legal action and serious penalties.
  2. Productivity: Though a boost in morale is good for the work environment, obsessing over your bracket may be bad for productivity. Susan let a lot of people go to voicemail in years passed…
  3. Resources loss: how much ink and paper do you think you wasted printing off the rough drafts of your bracket(s)?
  4. Non-participants: You may enjoy March Madness, but that doesn’t mean everyone does. An office pool that alienates certain groups of people or creates a distracting work environment can open a company up to Human Resources complaints and investigations.

Before setting up your next office pool or putting your name down as a participant, consider reviewing your company’s employee handbook or consult Human Resources for guidelines that may prohibit your involvement.

But will I get in trouble?

Short answer: potentially. If you partake in or organize an office betting pool, you are in violation of a number of state and federal gambling laws. Not only that, but you may also be in violation of your company’s policies regarding gambling at the office. If you decide to play along and you do get caught, the penalties for violating the law may include 6 months up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine between $200 and $1,000.

If you find yourself in trouble as a result of your gambling, consider getting help. The Maryland Council on Problem Gambling is an excellent resource for those struggling with an addiction to gambling. If you’re facing any legal troubles, please give the attorneys at Ferrante, Dill and Hisle, LLC a call today at (410) 535-6100 or send us an email at info@ferrantedill.com.