Is March Madness Legal Madness?

Basketball is on my mind this week for two reasons.

First, my seventh grader’s basketball team won the Dallas area Catholic schools championship game. Go Mustangs! If you saw how short my daughter is and the athletic prowess of her parents (or more accurately, the lack thereof), you would know what a a big deal this is for my girl.

Second, this Sunday (March 11) is Selection Sunday when the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee reveals which 68 teams have made the field for this year’s championships.

Second in betting popularity only to the Super Bowl, it is predicted that as much as $3 billion will be bet in workplace bracket pools during March Madness this year.

Here’s a fun fact. The average American worker will spend up to six paid hours filling out their brackets, watching games live, and trying to keep up with the latest scores and Cinderella stories. Based on the country’s average hourly wage of $25.35, employers will lose an estimated $1.3 billion in pay to slacking employees per hour of distraction.

Before you fill out your bracket and pat yourself on the back for figuring out a way to cheat the man out of six hours of work this month, let’s consider whether this is all legit.

I’ve talked about office gambling before in the context of Super Bowl Squares. If you missed that post, click here.

I’ll give you the 30 second recap. Yep, it’s illegal. Really illegal. Like three federal laws and multiple state laws illegal. Are you and your co-workers headed to the slammer? Not likely. The feds have bigger fish to fry.

Let’s go over a few rules on how you get better increase your odds of NOT getting into trouble over the next three weeks.

  • Win big? Woohoo! Now don’t forget to report your winnings to the IRS. Whether you earn it gambling or working 9-5, it’s all income as far as the IRS is concerned.
  • Win big but the organizer is refusing to pay out? Your SOL. Remember, your engaging in an illegal activity. You have no legal recourse against the organizer.
  • You’re skating on thin ice at work? Check your employee manual to see if your employer has a policy against workplace gambling. You don’t want a $10 bet to sink your job.
  • Don’t be the organizer. If a background check is in your future, don’t leave any trace of your participation on-line (e.g., social media posts, e-mail, using an on-line site to run your pool, or using a site like Venmo or PayPal to pay your buy-in).

Who do you think will be the big Cinderella story this year? 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.

 

 

Leave a Reply