For the next 3 weeks, employees everywhere will be absorbed in March Madness office pools. March Madness, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) annual basketball tournament will dominate water cooler conversation across the nation. It is estimated that approximately $1.2 billion will be lost in productivity as employees participate in office pools, watch the games and discuss the outcomes of each event with their colleagues.
But it is more than just productivity dollars that are at risk for being lost:
- Office betting pools where money is exchanged may be considered illegal gambling which constitutes a felony in some states. Employers that allow office pools can be prosecuted for encouraging gambling activity.
- If your business is in a state where office betting pools are legal, there are other issues to consider. Is the cost to “play” reasonable? Are all of the participants of legal age? Do you have any sense as to whether all who play and win are being paid?
- Your support of March Madness office pools may give staff your implicit approval to engage in other office solicitations.
- March Madness pools may lead to sexual discrimination charges since many of the participants in March Madness office pools are male employees.
- In order to run the betting pool, employees may use your office equipment such as computers, printers, emails and copy machines which makes it difficult to enforce office policies that limit the use of equipment to work-related activities only.
Allowing office betting pools aren’t as straightforward as it may seem. It’s worth weighing the pros and cons before giving the green light.
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