With March Madness upon us, employers are likely to encounter brackets and office betting pools. While office pools – like all unlicensed sports betting – are illegal, in the real world, businesses (and even some law firms) permit office pools for many reasons, including an attempt to increase workplace morale.
Despite the fact that the chance for criminal liability exists, we know these office pools will continue. Therefore, here’s how employers can double down to minimize their risks:
- Do develop a policy in your employee handbook outlining your expectations and the consequences of violating the policy for office pools.
- Don’t permit company computers or printers to facilitate office pools. Do require paper brackets instead of online brackets.
- Don’t ignore an employee’s complaint that that office betting is against the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. Do listen to any employee who complains and take appropriate action to curtail the betting in the face of such a complaint. Otherwise, you risk the possibility that the employee will report the illegal operation to authorities.
- Don’t post or publicize the results, standings or status of the pool, or permit your company’s common areas or e-mail system to be used for office betting.
- Do encourage the use of any employee assistance programs or other resources to help employees with compulsive gambling problems.
- Do avoid the appearance of “running” the pool. Ideally, supervisors and managers should be excluded from holding the pool’s funds, disbursing the funds, or resolving questions about the pool.
In the end, if you look the other way for the sake of workplace camaraderie, encourage employees to keep the stakes low. Or better yet, provide prizes and allow employees to play for free without buying in. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll minimize your liability for operating an illegal gambling operation – and you can bet on that.
Kara Gansmann, a North Carolina native, is an associate in Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP’s Wilmington office, where she focuses her litigation and appellate practice on various aspects of labor and employment law, business and contractual disputes, medical malpractice, and HOA matters. To contact Kara Gansmann, call (910) 777-6055 or email her at [email protected].