Smart SpendingSmart Spending

March Madness pools are likely breaking the law

The NCAA doesn't approve of your basketball tourney bracket, and your boss doesn't, either -- unless, of course, she organized your office pool in the first place.

By Money Staff Mar 19, 2014 2:11PM

This post comes from  Hal M. Bundrick at partner site MainStreet.

MainStreet on MSN MoneyYou might get away with playing the office's NCAA March Madness pool, just don't run it. Collecting the money and handing out the payouts means you're the bookie. A hard-core, hard-time, hardwood hustler. Of course, you're in cahoots with the other 50,000,000 would-be felons in America, as well.

Texas' Martez Walker (24) drives against West Virginia's Chase Connor (4) during the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday, March 13, 2014
© John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty ImagesAside from the money lost by employees from blown-up brackets, the U.S. workplace stands to shed at least $1.2 billion an hour in productivity during the first week of the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament, according to the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

And -- probably because it's one thing they don't get a cut of -- the NCAA opposes these popular office pools.

"The NCAA is aware of pools involving $100,000 or more in revenue," the athletic association says, without revealing the locations of the big money brackets. "Worse yet, the NCAA has learned these types of pools are often the entry point for youth to begin gambling."

You hear that? We're putting our children at risk here.

And do you remember the 1991 case where an office pool cost three Wall Street traders their jobs and left a clerical employee $330,000 in debt? Here's the famous bracket.

The FBI estimates more than $2.5 billion is wagered illegally on March Madness, according to the NCAA. And Challenger, Gray & Christmas says the estimate of 50,000,000 at-work participants may even be low.

"In 2012, 86 percent of respondents to an MSN survey indicated they will devote at least part of their workday to updating brackets, checking scores and following games during the tournament," the company says in a release. "If that survey pool was representative of the U.S. working population, more than 100 million workers [could be] expected to be distracted by March Madness."

In addition to lower employee productivity, increased juvenile delinquency, civil unrest and lawlessness, with an estimated 6.8 million viewers streaming the games on their computers or mobile devices, March Madness may also be a bandwidth bandit.

"Of course, as any corporate IT manager will attest, increased Internet traffic resulting from just a handful of employees streaming games will dramatically slow Internet speeds for the entire office. So, this means that productivity could be hindered even for those workers not caught up in March Madness," says John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Let's face it. America will be in shambles for at least a week or so. But Challenger advises employers: don't fight it.

"Instead, employers may want to seek ways to use March Madness as a tool to increase employee engagement," Challenger says. "Promoting a company-wide office pool that is free to enter, for example, could help boost camaraderie and encourage interaction among co-workers who may not typically cross paths."

He also advises relax dress codes and allow workers to wear sweatshirts and T-shirts in support of their favorite team. And there are ways companies can counteract a potential loss in productivity.

"Companies may be able to prevent unplanned absences related to March Madness by serving a catered lunch on the first two days of the tournament," Challenger says. "Others may want to have a couple of televisions around the office showing games, which might keep some employees from streaming games at their desk."

Now we're talking.

More from Main Street

Mar 19, 2014 3:02PM
As if THAT is what the feds and/or local authoritites should be worried about...??????? I think there are more pressing crimes at the moment. Start with what's going on in DC... the Capitol... the White House...
Mar 19, 2014 2:49PM
There are two basic rules in America, don't mess with Folks ability to own a gun and don't mess with folks ability to play in sport pools.
Mar 19, 2014 4:22PM
Who gives a rats butt... the fuzz balls are no doubt  putting bucks down themselves. 
Mar 19, 2014 5:32PM
So are crack and heroin.  Maybe worry about that instead of basketball pools! 
Mar 19, 2014 5:33PM
Did Obama at least spell "Syracuse" properly on his bracket this year??
Mar 19, 2014 4:44PM
"The NCAA doesn't approve of your basketball tourney bracket, and your boss doesn't, either -- unless, of course, she organized your office pool in the first place."


How MSN of them. 

Mar 19, 2014 6:13PM
What's the big deal?  Nobody is hurting anyone by participating in a NCAA March Madness pool. I do it every year. On the other hand, the Obama administration's policies are doing more to hurt millions of  working Americans than this.
Mar 19, 2014 7:16PM
if no one bet on it  the tourney would have no purpose  the only purpose for college sports is to make money it has nothing to do with education
Mar 19, 2014 7:18PM
and who cares what that azz obama picks he has no sports ability much like everything else he does
Mar 19, 2014 6:02PM
We have a bracket challenge at work every year...organized by, you guessed it...the boss!
Mar 19, 2014 5:57PM
I love how this author references your boss being a woman in the header, like women know anything about basketball... or business! 
Mar 21, 2014 7:21PM
What you really mean is us "regular folks" are cutting into the action in Vegas.  States are hypocrites.  They are up to their chin in gambling and just don't want any competition from anyone else.
Mar 21, 2014 3:51PM
Laws like that are made to be broken.
Mar 19, 2014 7:35PM
Sure, but it's O.K. for the Senate and the House members to be involved in insider trading with no repercussions, what a bunch of pious B.S..
Mar 19, 2014 6:54PM
If the NCAA received a cut of the money they'd be quiet as mice about it.
Mar 19, 2014 6:50PM
Hand over your bracket and nobody gets hurt.
Mar 19, 2014 6:19PM
i would like to hear of a law enforcement agency or firehouse that doesnt have sports pools.
Mar 19, 2014 5:55PM
They're not illegal if the digits are determined at random after the squares have already been purchased. Then it's totally chance and nothing more than a raffle.
Mar 19, 2014 5:33PM
Let not forget that America first and hopefully last ghetto prez told us not to visit Vegas. However, playing the numbers, which goes on illegally in most urban areas, supposedly pay back more then those legal lotteries that were initially hyped to fund better education in most states.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.