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Super Bowl Gambling: Illegal or Harmless Fun?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Millions of Americans will tune in February 5 to see the Giants and Patriots play in Super Bowl 46. Some might even want to wager a bit of money on the game. Which begs the question -- is Super Bowl gambling illegal? The answer may hinge on whether or not your state has social gambling laws.

It's an issue that is important to many sports-loving Americans. After all, an estimated half of all adult Americans bet on the Super Bowl.

Bets range in terms of size and scope. Some may choose to play in an office pool and buy squares. Others may choose to place sizable sums on a team through sportsbooks.

The aggregate amount of betting on the Super Bowl in 2010 was $82 million in Nevada. This doesn't even count all the bets occurring in offices and homes across the nation.

This year likely won't prove too different. Yet some may be surprised to find out that even an innocuous office pool may be illegal. It might even be the reason you get fired. Verizon dismissed six workers in Taunton, Massachusetts in 2011 over their participation in an office Super Bowl pool. The company thought their actions amounted to illegal gambling.

Gambling is illegal in most states. But some states allow an exception for social gambling. Social gambling is usually defined where the betting takes place in a purely social context. The individuals previously know each other. There is also no profit-making involved -- as in, no bookies.

So in most cases, casual bets with friends would qualify under the social gambling exception.

It might be wise to check up on your state's statutes before you whip out your checkbook. Not all jurisdictions have social gambling laws. Remember: Super Bowl gambling can be illegal. So try your best not to break the rules this weekend.

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