Let’s lay it on the table from the start — office betting pools are illegal in Wisconsin.

Gambling, lotteries and office pools illegal. That participation in an activity where a superior-ranked person may take money from a subordinate in something akin to gambling or an office pool.

Mar 19, 2015  But while your fun office or dormitory pool may seem harmless, chances are you're breaking the law. The truth is, the majority of office pools are illegal. The FBI estimates that at least $2.5 billion is illegally wagered each year on March Madness. In 1973, when the Gambling Act was first passed, 100 square sports pool boards were authorized. This is the only type of sports betting allowed in Washington State. Bracket pools, office sports pools, and fantasy sports have never been authorized as gambling activities in Washington State and are illegal. See our page on Sports Wagering. Aug 30, 2014  Become a Microsoft Office whiz in 2020 with this training Fenty Beauty offers up to 50% off eyeshadow palettes, lip sets, and more Macy’s kicks off huge two-day sale with markdowns up to 70%. Mar 20, 2017  Some states have outlawed variations of workplace pools but Illinois isn't among them. Yet office betting or in-house gambling could be violating federal statutes.

Regardless of the amount of money involved. Regardless of how many other people participate in betting pools. Office betting pools and other forms of private gambling can lead to fines or even jail time.

Every year around this time, with NCAA March Madness right around the corner, I advise my clients on the illegality of office gambling. They nod and smile politely, seeming to listen … but I suspect they’re not really paying me any mind. They’re too busy thinking about whether Wisconsin can make the Final Four, whether UNC could be upset in an early round, whether they should choose Memphis over UCLA to take it all, etc.

Fools. Of course UNC will be upset in an early round, and clearly my beloved Duke Blue Devils are in the best position to take it all this year.

But I Digress. Free casino bingo games online.

“March Madness” office pools are hardly uncommon. One 2006 poll found that 21 percent of individuals have participated in a March Madness office betting pool. Bracket forms are printed in newspapers, and instructions for organizing and conducting such office pools are downloadable from the Internet. While most office pools involve small amounts of money, it can add up. According to the FBI, an estimated $2.5 billion is bet every year on the NCAA basketball tournament.

Under current Wisconsin law, anyone who “makes a bet” is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days. The law defines a “bet” as a “bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.” Wis. Stats. Sec. 945.01(1). To give a plain example, despite the unquestionable skills of Duke’s senior guard DeMarcus Nelson, not to mention Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, etc., there is a remote chance the Blue Devils will not dominate the tournament. Therefore, wagering on Duke’s eventual victory would constitute an unlawful “making of a bet.”

Sometimes clients ask me what are the odds that the police would actually make an arrest based on an office betting pool. I don’t know. I admit I have never known anyone who has been arrested or otherwise gotten in criminal trouble over office betting pools.

But there are other risks employers should consider besides just the risk of criminal prosecution. For example:

Betting pools can significantly reduce employee productivity. Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger Gray & Christmas estimates that US businesses suffer an estimated $1.2 billion in lost productivity during March Madness, between office pool and Internet activity.

Betting pools often involve non-work-related use of company computer systems and office equipment. Your company policies likely prohibit or at least restrict personal use of copiers, or your email system. If employees are allowed to use company copiers to make photocopies of bracket forms, or use the company email system to update on tournament results or the like, the employer may find it more complicated to enforce these policies in other contexts.

Gambling can be addictive and a serious problem for many. According to the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 5 to 7 percent of the US population has some kind of gambling problem — and the organization receives a high number of referrals in March. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has estimated that serious problem gamblers contribute to $370 million in social costs each year, including employment costs.


These reasons, and the prevalence of office betting pools, should be enough reason for employers to remind employees that there are no exceptions to their HR policies for office betting pools. Employees should be reminded that gambling on basketball is illegal. That company copy machines are not to be used to photocopy bracket forms. That listening to or watching games during work time is inappropriate. That using company email to mock UNC fans — while perhaps understandable — is not an allowed use of the company’s computer system.

Of course, it is probably not necessary to prohibit all basketball fan activities. Many employers find it to be good for employee morale to allow employees to display support for the Blue Devils (or other sports teams of their choice). I know some companies that broadcast Duke basketball games over the PA system (or other significant games as well). And I have heard of employers who offer to throw parties if when Duke is ultimately victorious. Of course, I have also heard there are deviants who celebrate if the Blue Devils lose — but such antisocial practices hardly deserve mention. The point is, there are many creative ways for employers to tap into the excitement of March Madness without running afoul of the law.

Go Duke!

Special thanks to Laurie Meyer, Esq. for her research on this topic. Although not a Duke basketball fan, she’s all right.

Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition at the office when it comes to March Madness® and other sporting events? But did you know that those office pools could be breaking the law?

Sports betting: A numbers game

According to the American Gaming Association, 40 million Americans fill out more than 70 million brackets and wager more than $2 billion on a winning March Madness entry. NCAA tournament fans enjoy competing in office pools with their coworkers — and the added excitement and camaraderie that goes with it, much like what happens when a jackpot for winning a lottery grows to astronomical numbers.

Whether you base your office pool decisions on careful team analysis and in-depth player statistics or just an eccentric college team nickname, you get to pick the teams you think will make it all the way to the championship —and win. After each game, you get to find out which of your colleagues’ teams were knocked out of the running. It’s fun to place small, and usually friendly, wagers on what’s widely known as The Big Dance®. But does it count as illegal gambling?

Did you know about these gambling laws?

Given that millions of Americans place bets on NCAA brackets each year, the jury is still out regarding the percentage of those people who have actually been arrested or fined for participating in an office pool. Yet if you create a tournament bracket for March Madness or any other sporting event, you could be violating federal, state or local laws that ban workplace gambling of any kind. Gambling laws vary by state, but the most common violation of federal law involves the violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. PASPA prohibits sports gambling in every state except four: Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. This federal law does not create an exemption for NCAA office pools.

In addition, many states have laws that prohibit gambling, with exceptions that may include casinos, state lotteries and horse racing. Some states allow recreational betting up to a certain dollar amount as long as the participants are within the same state and the organizer does not take a cut of the money. In states that allow social gambling, the participants must have an established social interest outside of gambling.

But the issue may get stickier if people from multiple states are placing bets or if people are wagering large amounts of money. These behaviors may draw scrutiny from regulators and put you at greater risk of prosecution. Additionally, if anybody is at heightened risk for getting prosecuted under current gambling laws for involvement in NCAA pools, those individuals collecting and paying out prize money seem to be in the most dangerous position.

Specific State-by-State Laws– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Didn’t the US Ban Online Poker in 2006?No. There are some states that have inserted somewhat harsh language about the operations of online gaming aimed at their residents, with Utah being the most anti-gambling state in America, but most laws are either convoluted or ambiguous at best.Of course, we’re not attorneys, nor do we come from a legal background. Us not allowing online poker. The 2011 Department of Justice decision regarding the Wire Act ‘clarified’ it enough on the legal level, though, to say that the law does not apply to online poker and other forms of online gambling when the state allows those activities.Later in 2011 the US Department of Justice indicted several sites that still operating incorrectly in the USA in a misguided move that is referred to as Black Friday by online poker players in the USA. The US government did pass the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006 (UIGEA for short), which made it illegal for banks and financial institutions to aid in the processing of “illegal” online gambling transactions.Experts on this law have asserted that the bill itself did not create any new laws, and most believe it only complicated internet laws. Licensed and legal professionals should always be consulted when an actual situation arises in which someone may be (or feel they are) in legal jeopardy.

Consider potential employer concerns with office pools.

Before you take the plunge in the office betting pool, review your office policies to make sure you won’t suffer adverse employment consequences if you make place bets with your coworkers.

For example, to protect itself from liability, your workplace may establish policies prohibiting employees from participating in recreational gambling, including betting on the NCAA basketball tournament. To avoid getting in trouble with human resources, you should familiarize yourself with your company’s policies before you create an office pool or tournament bracket.

Although office pools can deliver a boost in team morale to the workplace, companies can have a number of legitimate concerns:

  • Liability. In most states, office pools are considered illegal gambling. Therefore, allowing employees to participate could potentially subject the employer to legal action and serious penalties.
  • Productivity. Although March Madness or team excitement may boost employee morale, it can lead to a drop in worker productivity.
  • Use of company resources. Workplaces generally frown on their employees using company resources for non-work activities.
  • Non-participants. Sports are a popular pastime for many Americans, but not everyone is a fan. Further, many Americans are opposed to gambling. Allowing recreational gambling in the workplace may cause some employees to feel uncomfortable and file complaints.

You should be particularly careful if you intend to organize an office pool, as your employer may have polices against workplace gambling. This policy could include guidelines that help determine:

  • Whether gambling of any type is allowed in the office.
  • How to get HR approval for gambling activities.
  • Any limits or restrictions on what type of company equipment can and cannot be used to engage in the gambling activity.
  • A complaint reporting procedure.
  • Types of discipline that may be expected for employees who violate the company’s workplace gambling policy.

Are Office Gambling Pools Illegal California

Review your company’s policies on workplace gambling. To reduce the risk of getting in trouble, consult with your boss or your HR department before inviting your coworkers to create a basketball bracket. One alternative is to limit conversations about the NCAA tournament to off-work hours and lunch breaks.

Will I get in trouble if I enter an office pool?

If you’re placing bets on a sports tournament, you’re probably violating federal law unless you’re in Nevada or one of the other three states that are exempted from PASPA. If you’re organizing a pool, you should be aware of the betting laws in your state and make sure that your place of employment is okay with you organizing a pool. If you try to be devious and you get caught, you may find yourself in trouble with your boss, especially if your company has clear rules against workplace betting. You’ll especially want to be careful about the method in which the money is handled and make sure you don’t take in any profits.

Office Gambling Pools

To keep your employer satisfied, keep the amount of time you spend on tournament-related activities to a minimum while you’re on the clock. Or consider alternatives to the office betting pool, such as asking your company to sponsor an event where the winner gets a year’s worth of bragging rights, a pizza party or a donation to a charity of the winner’s choice.