Super Bowl Office Betting: Good Clean Fun or Borrowing Trouble?

“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” Paul Newman as Eddie Felson in The Color of Money

Do you know what today, January 28, is?

National Kazoo Day, yes. National Blueberry Pancake Day, that too.

It’s also the 22nd anniversary of the last time the Dallas Cowboys won a Super Bowl (or even made it to the Super Bowl). And in the last 22 years, the ‘Boys have only managed to win two (no, that’s not a typo) playoff games.

Ouch, Cowboys Nation.

I will leave it to the experts, like The Musers on The Ticket Sports Radio, to continue to discuss at length why this season was uniquely disastrous (as opposed to just a stinker). I wake up to these guys every weekday morning (my husband’s the fan, not me).

This year’s Super Bowl is the icing on the cake. Do we want the Patriots to win, and pass up the Cowboys in Lombardi trophies, or do we want the Eagles to get their first one? If choosing who to vote for in the last presidential wasn’t hard enough, now this conundrum for Cowboys fans.

So how are a lot of Cowboys fans planning to make lemonade out of lemons this pre-Super Bowl week? By playing Super Bowl Squares at work, of course. Coincidentally, January 28 is also National Fun at Work Day.

Super Bowl Squares, along with the March Madness Bracket, are the two most popular office pools in the world.

How does it work? Each fan purchases one or more of a 100 squares on a 10 by 10 grid. Each of the numbers of each of the squares, 0-9, corresponds to the final number in the score of the AFC or the NFC team. The owner of the box that matches the last digit of the final score of both teams wins.

Just good clean office fun. But is it legal?

Nope, it’s illegal, really illegal. Should you be worried? Probably not, too much.

Illegal, yes….

Under the gaming laws of all 50 states, Super Bowl Squares pools are considered gambling because they involve an entry fee and a prize won or lost solely on chance. Unless there is a “recreational gaming exception” for Super Bowl Squares pools in your state, they are illegal.

For you Cowboys fans, there is no “recreational gaming exception” for Super Bowl Squares in Texas and they are truly illegal. But don’t worry, there is one for Bingo.

To add insult to injury, it’s also considered “bookmaking” in Texas (taking more than five bets in a 24 hour period). Funny to think of the nice lady in the mailroom with her poster board and Sharpies as a “bookie.”

It’s also illegal under the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (prohibits gambling on professional and amateur games) and if your office Super Bowl Squares pool has participants in more than one state, it’s illegal under the Federal Wire Act.

So what sort of jail time are we talking about? Misdemeanors punishable by fines or up to a year in prison.

But don’t worry about it (too much)…

So are the police going to raid your office and bust you and your co-workers for gambling?

The answer is no, because frankly, they have bigger fish to fry. That and nearly half of Americans who participate it these office betting pools would be facing criminal charges.

Whether or not your office betting pool is of interest to the police would depend on how big it is, who’s running it, and if the organizer is making money of off the pool.

So how can you keep your office Super Bowl Squares pool off of the police’s radar? Keep the dollar amounts very low, don’t let anyone out of state participate, and don’t let the organizer take a cut. And no snitches.

Don’t be the organizer. Also, if a background check is in your future, don’t leave any trace of your participation online (e.g., social media posts, e-mail, or using an online site to run your pool). Remember, we are still talking about a technically illegal activity.

Finally, remember that you if you are the winner, you have no legal recourse if the organizer decides not to pay out. Sorry, Charlie.

 

Patriots or Eagles, what say you? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “Super Bowl Office Betting: Good Clean Fun or Borrowing Trouble?

  1. I think that the general prohibition against gambling is headed towards a demise, and I think it might reach that end before the prohibition against cannabis. That said, I’ve always felt like the laws against gambling presented a nice thought experiment – how would we craft a law that would allow office pools, fantasy sports leagues, etc. but still prohibit “big gambling”? I think way to separate the yolk from the egg would be in the rake – prohibit the percentage that casinos and organized gaming outfits charge for the game. Meaning, legalize games of chance where 100% of the buy in gets distributed to the players.

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