The Super Bowl, March Madness and Office Betting

The Super Bowl and March Madness are quickly approaching. If you’re planning on organizing or participating in an “office gambling pool”, then in all likelihood you will probably be engaging in an illegal act. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 prohibits betting on most amateur and professional sports in most states.

While the laws are different in each state, in California, Penal Code section 337a states that gambling can be a felony or misdemeanor. Penal Code section 336.9, which may apply to most “office pool” sports gambling situations, lessons the criminal penalties for betting pools between people (such as your office co-workers) who are not acting for profit, with less than $2,500 at stake, and with all participants sharing the same rewards and risks.

If you’re an employer, we would suggest that you not authorize, sanction or otherwise encourage “office pool” gambling on the Super Bowl, March Madness or any other sporting event. Your policy manual should make this clear. Also keep in mind that if you have offices or employees in multiple states and phone, fax or email (or any other electronic communication for that matter) is used to organize an “office pool” or facilitate gambling, federal statutes against gambling may also be violated.

Look, we know how much fun it can be to give each other a hard time and trash-talk each other’s favorite teams. We also doubt small $10 or $20 dollar bets will attract the interest of the legal authorities.

Having said that, we believe the safe bet is to keep all gambling outside the office and within state and federal guidelines. It’s just the smart thing to do!

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