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World Cup Office Pools: Are They Legal?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Today marks the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. And just like March Madness, the Olympics, or any other protracted sporting event, at least a few of your employees will no doubt be swept up in the surrounding fervor.

In fact, your employees (and possibly you) may even get an office pool going, wagering a little money on the outcome of individual matches or the tournament as a whole.

So it may be wise to kick off with this question: Are World Cup office pools legal?

  • Need legal advice on how your small business should operate? Consult with an experienced business attorney about your options.

Sports Gambling Under Federal Law

After passage of 1992's Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, gambling on sports was outlawed except in the four states that were grandfathered in: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. Of those, only Nevada allows organized gambling on most major professional and college sports.

Typically, this law only applies to gambling businesses, such as casinos and sports books. Online sports betting is generally outlawed under a different federal statute.

But what about just a little wagering among co-workers?

Social Gambling Under State Law

Depending on your state's gambling laws, so-called "social gambling" may be legal where your business is located.

Whether or not an office pool will be considered social gambling may depend on how you read the rules, however. Some states, beyond the four grandfathered in under the federal statute, have also legalized very specific forms of gambling. For example, Vermont and Connecticut have allowed sports gambling pools under certain circumstances.

Outside of those states, your office World Cup pool will likely run afoul of the law. However, the odds of getting caught are probably pretty slim.

Employer Liability?

Of more concern for an employer: By allowing conduct that may be illegal to occur at work and during work hours, they may be exposing themselves to an employment-related lawsuit.

For example, what happens if an employee gets fired -- and then files a wrongful termination suit claiming they were terminated for refusing to participate in an intra-office gambling pool?

Best idea may be to tell your soccer-fan employees, including yourself, to do any gambling on this year's World Cup on their own time.

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