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Fifth-Grader Busted for NCAA Pool: Gambling is 'Like, Illegal, Sort Of'

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Reading, writing, and bracketology have landed a Nebraska boy in trouble. The fifth-grader tried to start an NCAA tournament pool at his Omaha elementary school, but instead got a lesson in the law.

"You can't gamble in school," Max Kohll, 11, told the Omaha World-Herald. "It's not OK to gamble. It's like, illegal, sort of."

Like his college-basketball-fan parents, Kohll read up on his favorite team (the North Carolina Tar Heels) and filled out his bracket (with the Tar Heels winning, of course). He then borrowed $5 from his mom, and set off to school.

Max Kohll used his book smarts -- his favorite subject is math -- and decided to become a small-time bookie of sorts. He asked classmates to join his fifth-grade NCAA pool for $5. The winner would get half the pot; runners-up would split the rest, the World-Herald reports.

But when word of Kohll's bracket contest reached the school's principal, she called for a time out. Running an NCAA pool for money is akin to illegal gambling, she told Kohll.

Gambling -- even social gambling among friends, with no profit-making involved -- is a misdemeanor in Nebraska. Social gambling is also illegal in at least 20 other states, according to the website Gambling Law US.

But Nebraska, like most states, generally views gambling as illegal only if a game's outcome is "determined by an element of chance." If elements of skill outweigh chance, a party likely won't be prosecuted.

Max Kohll's principal gave him a stern talking-to, the World-Herald reports, but also set him up for a nice rebound. The fifth-grader will face no punishment, so long as he never starts an NCAA bracket pool at school ever again.

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