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March Madness is in full swing, and if your company offices are like any of the others in this country, so is March Madness betting. As an in-house attorney we're sure you steer clear of any potentially illegal conduct.
But should you be advising your company against allowing employees to engage in a March Madness office pool? Here are three reasons why you should advocate for a no-bets policy ... and one reason why it may not be such a bad idea.
"March Madness may be America's largest annual ritual of collective lawbreaking," says Bloomberg. What? Yep, you read that correctly. In fact, according to last years' stats, approximately 50 million people participated in March Madness office pools, reports CNBC. Despite these figures, the March Madness betting pools are largely illegal. It depends on how you define "bet" and if you pay to enter the pool, but there are state and federal laws that prohibit sports betting, according to CNBC.
According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm, "companies stand to lose at least $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament." That is a mind-boggling amount of money. How is that possible? Live-streaming is a big culprit -- about a quarter of March Madness office pool participants watch the games at work, says WSYX. Then factor in time filling in brackets, and office chit chat about standings, and you've got a colossal waste of time.
If the office betting pool becomes a big to-do, employees that don't participate, or are just not that excited about basketball, may end up feeling excluded. The lasting effect of low morale may not be worth the fleeting March Madness euphoria.
While there are plenty of reasons to discourage March Madness office pools, The Wall Street Journal notes that some businesses overcome the productivity hurdles by making March Madness a "production incentive." Not only that, the Examiner.com suggest office pools can be a "team building opportunity." Despite all of this, please see #1 on the Con Side list above.
Whether your advice is heeded, or not, make sure that executives of the company are not involved in any March Madness pools. For everyone else, they fill out their brackets at their own risk.
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