Madness in March—The Final Four Reasons to be Wary of the NCAA Tournament in the Workplace

by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Okay, let’s get one thing straight right away: this is NOT a blog post telling you that it’s okay to sponsor an NCAA pool in your office or even suffer one to exist. That’s because I’m a lawyer and, according to federal and (most) state laws, gambling on amateur sports is illegal. Yes, that includes the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 (28 U.S.C. § 3701, et seq.) prohibits gambling on sports anywhere except Nevada (of course), Oregon, Delaware, and Montana. Further, the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, 18 USC § 1084, has been interpreted to prohibit online betting. So the absolute last thing you’re going to see me say in this blog post is, “Go ahead and allow it.” Okay?  Not gonna happen.

“So why do a blog post at all?” you might ask. Good question. The answer is that, even if it is illegal, even if federal and state laws absolutely prohibit it, chances are there is going to be some kind of NCAA tournament office pool in your workplace. Approximately $2.5 billion is wagered on the tournament every year, and only about $80 million of that (less than one-half of 1 percent) was wagered legally in a place like a Las Vegas sports book. Some recent estimates suggest 60 million Americans bet in pools made available at—and sometimes even organized by—their places of employment. Here are some tips on how to approach the March Madness sure to happen in the workplace.

  1. Be Prepared for Reduced Productivity. About half of the games in the initial rounds of the NCAA tournament occur during work hours. Even if you don’t have televisions conveniently placed everywhere in your office, with the prevalence of smartphones, tablet computers, and good old-fashioned Internet websites showing constant updates, you can expect to lose a significant percentage of your workforce’s attention for hours at a time. In study conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., it was estimated that companies would pay as much as $134 million to workers who were not fully engaged (i.e., “watching basketball”) during the first two days of the tournament alone.
  2. Know the Company’s Line—And Stick to It. Whether your company condones or condemns an NCAA office pool, it is crucial that you determine what the organization’s stance is going to be and stick with it. Are you going to allow an office pool to happen?  Okay, say you do. Are you going to allow someone to use company equipment to print out brackets and sign-up sheets? Okay, well, what about the time it takes to manage the tournament. Are you going to allow someone to use work time? Or maybe your workers want to use one of the many free Internet sites to manage the office pool. Will you allow folks to access the Internet sites from their office computers? You need to make sure that the line is drawn—and that your employees know where that line is.
  3. Don’t Ignore the Risk of Discrimination. Disparate treatment (read: “discrimination”) can pop up in the darndest places. Take, for example, the supervisor who (unofficially) leads an office NCAA tournament pool. If that supervisor happens to have an employee who objects to gambling on religious grounds, it might be very easy for that employee to blame any adverse employment action (i.e., “discipline”) on the fact that he or she may have voiced that objection. Same with the older employee who feels that he or she has to pick up the slack of younger workers who are clustered around the break room’s TV during the tournament’s first round. Whatever the situation, your company must be prepared to deal with office dissenters who don’t consider bracketology to be the ultimate science.
  4. Keep in Mind—NCAA TOURNAMENT OFFICE POOLS ARE LARGELY ILLEGAL. As I said at the beginning, I am not going to tell you it’s okay to allow an office pool to take place. Granted, police and the FBI generally have better things to do than go arresting cubical dwellers and warehouse workers for putting $10 in an office pool. But if someone were to complain, or if the stakes were to get out of hand (as in 1991 when three Wall Street employees lost their jobs for betting more than $300,000 on the NCAA tournament), it may draw the attention of the authorities. So please, think twice before officially sanctioning any event at work where money changes hands.

Okay, enough of the Captain Buzzkill routine. Anyway, I have to go—there’s a game starting and I don’t want to miss it.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.