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March Madness: Are Office Pools Illegal?

They're a staple of offices across America every March, but could your office bracket pool get you in trouble with the law?
By Michaela MacDonald
mmacdonald@klbk13.tv

LUBBOCK, TX -- They're a staple of offices across America every March, but could your office bracket pool get you in trouble with the law? Neal Burt, Chief of the Civil Division Of the Lubbock County District Attorney's Office says probably not.

"In theory its considered gambling because it is essentially betting on a sporting game," he said. "That being said there are a couple defenses in Texas that can limit some of the potential criminal liability."

"We look at some of the trends and statistic nationwide and I couldn't actually find anyone with regard to a particular office pool having been prosecuted before," he said.

Burt's tips are to make sure it takes place in a private place, all participants are on an even playing field, and most importantly the organizer cannot take a cut.

"Usually if the house itself is taking a cut, that's when it becomes more problematic, especially problematic. A lot of legal eagles will caution the folks that organize these not to take a cut," said Burt. "Most people should be okay. If you are the organizer and depending on the level of what type of pool you are trying to organize you probably in that respect need to be a little more cautious however."

Burt says these pools are often good for office morale, and gambling laws aren't really aimed at stopping them.

"Its essentially become America's past-time and the gambling laws as they exist are more to prevent the bookies, the organized gambling, the gambling halls and things of that  nature," said Burt.

Burt says most states don't have legal restrictions on office pools, but Connecticut and Pennsylvania are actually trying to introduce legislation which would make office pools completely legal for things like the March Madness tournament.

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