Is Basketball Betting Legal?

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Office betting pools can get you fired, and in some states possibly arrested.

Slate.com reports betting on basketball brackets (any workplace gambling, really) could mean trouble, depending on where you live. But it probably won’t.

For starters, it might be against company policy. In 2009, participating in a fantasy football league got four Fidelity employees fired. Federal employees are also banned from gambling at work.

It could also be illegal, and state laws vary widely on the particulars. According to Slate:

Office basketball pools count as illegal bookmaking operations in most states. You’re in the clear if your office is located in Nevada, where sports wagering is legal; in Montana, where sports pools are legal as long as the house doesn’t take a cut; and in Vermont and Connecticut, where small-time pools among friends and colleagues are allowed.

That means in the other 46 states, gambling pools are illegal.

Anthony Cabot, a gaming lawyer, told an Indiana TV station “persons operating and playing in the pools could be arrested” in states where it’s illegal, although that’s not typical.

“Not typical” is an understatement, however. The fact is, while March Madness gambling is widespread, the author of the Slate article wasn’t able to find a single instance of someone being prosecuted for spending five or ten bucks to participate in an office pool.

If you do win your office pool, however, don’t forget you’re also supposed to pay taxes on your winnings.

Stacy Johnson

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