March Madness NCAA Pools: Jail Time or Innocent Fun?

In just days, college basketball fans all across the country will fill out their brackets and hope for a big win in the annual office pool and a big payday. But with money often trading hands, is your office pool considered illegal gambling? And could you actually face time behind bars?

Weld Riley defense attorney and former Eau Claire District Attorney Rich White says technically, you are breaking the law.

“You have a situation where illegal gambling can, for simplicity’s sake, be defined as games of chance with a monetary payoff at stake. Sports gambling for money is technically illegal in Wisconsin,” White said.

According to

  • 81% of companies have no formal HR guideline on office pools
  • 9.2 billion dollars wagered on the tournament in 2016
  • 8.9 billion dollars was wagered illegally in 2016
  • Experts say distracted employees cost businesses an estimated $4 billion per year during the tournament.

But will local police be out trying to bring private offices into compliance with the law and slam dunk any illegal gambling? White says no.

“Law enforcement authorities are not looking to break up office pools. However, the bar with an extensive “bookie” operation which takes sports bets may be in a different position and operates at its own peril,” he said.

Weld Riley, S.C. was founded in 1991. The firm consists of lawyers across four offices (Eau Claire, Menomonie, Wausau and Black River Falls) and offers a full range of legal services, including labor and employment, business law, estate planning, tax representation, municipal law, mining and mineral rights, environmental law, banking and creditor rights, civil litigation, criminal defense, immigration, and family law.