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3 Reasons March Madness is a Losing Game for Businesses

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

College sports tournaments cost companies money, and March Madness is leading the way.

Between office pools, water cooler recaps, and hours spend secretly streaming games feeds, employers bear the brunt of workers’ college athletics obsession.

As corporate counsel, it might be a good idea to work with the human resources department to establish sports tournament guidelines for your company that reduce lost revenues and avoid illegal activity.

Here are three issues that should factor into your discussions.

1. Live Streaming

In 2011, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution estimated that March Madness would cost employers $192 million in lost work productivity. (Outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reached that number by estimating that online viewership during work hours that year would likely reach 8.4 million hours, and multiplying that figure by the average hourly earnings among private sector workers -- $22.87.)

Two years later, the firm predicts that the tournament will cost companies at least $134 million just over its first two days, The Orlando Business Journal reports. This year, an estimated 3 million workers will spend 1 to 3 hours following March Madness during work hours.

The Boss Button only makes matters worse. With a click of the mouse, the Boss Button makes it quick and easy for an employee to hide that basketball live feed from a supervisor.

2. Brackets

Last year, a CouponCabin study found that 45 percent of workers admitted to researching their March Madness brackets at work. Business News Daily reports that 23 percent of those respondents admitted that they would spend one to two hours researching their picks during the work day, while 21 percent would spend more than two hours of work time on their brackets.

3. Office Pools

Not only do March Madness pools waste value work hours -- see bracket time-sink above -- they are also against the law in most states.

According to BusinessWeek, approximately 58 million Americans fill out brackets, wagering $12 billion on the tournament, but most of those bets violate federal law. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, also known as the Bradley Act, makes it unlawful to bet, gamble, or wager on sporting events.

Four states are exempt from the Bradley Act: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana, BusinessWeek reports, while The Washington Post notes that Nevada and Delaware remain the only states where betters can legally gamble on college and pro sports.

Does your company have policies regarding March Madness or sports tournaments? Care to share which ideas worked and which ideas failed? Head over to our Facebook or Google+ pages to post your thoughts.

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