Though It’s Illegal, March Madness Office Pools Are More Popular than Ever

March Madness office pools are more popular than ever these days, despite experts agreeing that the gambling activity is illegal. Occasionally, an elected official or sports coach admits to doing an office pool, which brings their ethics into question. Despite that, the practice is so widespread that March Madness bracket pool are an American tradition.

“Bracketology” is now a word. Even 5th graders have gotten into the action, though the average pool better is a no better informed on the sports betting laws than 11-year old Max Kohll of Omaha, Nebraska.

William R. Eadington, a gaming analyst for the University of Reno, said that, “It probably is illegal in almost all cases to be involved in office pool betting, but nobody really cares.

Eadington, who is the Director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling & Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, is one of a selection of researchers who says that the office pools are best kept in the old-fashioned, offline realm. Eadington added, “If you facilitate gambling transactions, you are subject to a felony (charge).

House Profits Would Be Illegal

That’s not just the opinion of Dr. Eadington; it’s the stance federal authorities take. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation decided to investigate online office pools in 2008, it did its research on Facebook. The FBI issued a warning that year and continues to warn Internet operators not to profit off their gaming pools.

Ross Rice, a spokesman for the FBI, recently told the Chicago Tribune, “There could be a violation if there’s a payout and if the operators take a cut. The main issue we would likely face is if this is worth our resources to investigate.

David Schwartz, Director of the UNLV Center for Gaming Research, said a house rake or vigorish is illegal, and therefore dangerous for the organizer. Schwartz said, “If you are taking a percentage of it, a cut out of it, then you are basically becoming a bookie.

Company Regulations

Of course, the Feds are not the only reason to fear online office pools. Some companies have anti-gambling policies, though most don’t. The Society For Resource Management did a study of 451 human resources departments and found that only 14% had anti-gambling policies. 7% more said they had an “unwritten” policy.

Among those employers who took a stance against office pools, 55% provided for disciplinary action, including termination from the job. Gamblers need to know their company’s policies to make sure they aren’t engaging in banned activities.

Media Attention Is Pervasive

Despite the fact gaming pools are illegal, the practice is so widespread, no authority is likely to prosecute a widespread numbers of gamblers. Only those who profit on the gaming or flaunt the authorities are likely to receive attention.

The American media obviously has the event on their minds–meaning they probably play themselves. Time Magazine published an article called “6 Ways to Win Your March Madness Office Pool“. Forbes published an article entitled “Do You Care More About March Madness Than Your Retirement?

The games appear to be on everyone’s mind, or at least most adult males. 50 million Americans engage in office pools each year. As an indication of how popular NCAA bracket betting is these days, that’s probably the best statistic. It only tells part of the story, though. The devotion shown by a significant part of the workforce is astounding, while the man-hours lost to bracketology are immense.

Money Lost to Gambling Employees

It is estimated that about $175 million is paid to workers each year who are distracted by the NCAA tournament. During the three weeks of the tournament, 10.3 million hours are spent streaming video of the tournament each year.

At work during those days, some 2.5 million US corporate employees spend at least 90 minutes a day watching the tournament (during the weekdays). In other words, a huge segment of the American population is distracted by the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament each year. Those who said the “One and Done” policy would kill college basketball have been comprehensively proven wrong.

Those wanting the full breakdown of the statistics involving US workers and the annual NCAA Final Four tournament, here are some stats you should enjoy.

March Madness Demographics

  • 58% of people enter at least one betting pool.
  • 31% of people enter two or more betting pools.
  • 81% of those responders say they devoted part of at least one workday to following last year’s NCAA tournament.
  • 86% of the US corporate employees devote part of their workday to updating brackets and checking scores.
  • 56% of employees dedicate at least 1 hour of work to the March Madness phenomenon each year.
  • 57% of employers either condone or encourage March Madness, by having their own pools.
  • 33% to 40% of employers block NCAA tournament websites or sites devoted to such gambling.
  • 40% of office place workers try to access NCAA tournament information on their computers each year.
  • 41% of the people involved believe the tournament event “had a positive impact on the workplace”, due to camaraderie and teamwork.
  • 11% of workers say they spend at least 5 hours of the workday to March Madness.
  • 14% of NCAA basketball fans have called in sick during March Madness.
  • 6% of American employees take off the first two days of March Madness each year. Those are the Thursday and Friday of the first week of the tournament, when 16 games apiece are played.


About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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